By Laxmi McCulloch
Germantown Friends School
As of May 2, 50.1% of Pennsylvania residents had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 32.7% were fully vaccinated. Additionally, on April 19, 16- 17year olds became eligible to get vaccinated in Pennsylvania. What does that mean for this summer? Seems as if there’s going to be ONE BIG PARTY.
Not actually, of course, because that would be terribly impractical. But, after over a year of social distancing and small gatherings, high school students around the world are ready to finally let loose a little and make up for all the time we’ve lost.
“I just want to hang out with friends without masks on; that’s a big goal,” said Bluma Hammarhead, a junior at Germantown Friends School. “In general, just have fun and live it up. The pandemic has definitely taught me to not take things for granted,” she said.
For me, it’s kind of that you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-til-it’s-gone thing — pre-pandemic, I didn’t spend a ton of time (or any, really) hanging out with huge groups or going to parties. I never felt the need to expand my friend group or socialize with strangers.
The pandemic changed all that for me. It forced me to realize that high school isn’t very long at all and I need to make the most of the time I have, especially now that so much of it has been taken away.
After more than a year of never knowing what was going to come next, a year full of protests and elections and dark death and twists and turns, after a year of living through one of the scariest things the world has seen in a long time, it’s hard to be spooked by something like meeting new people. If I can take on a global pandemic and come out on top, I can do anything.
I feel invincible.
And the vaccine is only elevating that feeling. I get my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine in a few days, and just two short weeks after that I can finally see my (fully vaccinated) friends relatively normally. I’ve been dreaming of the return to hugs and sleepovers and bottom halves of faces for months on end, and now I can finally see the finish line.
I’m not the only one feeling this way.
“I have one dose right now, and so far, that has not changed my behavior, but once I’m fully vaccinated I’m very ready to let down my guard,” said Hammarhead. “I mean, I’m still going to be somewhat careful, I’m not going go crazy … I think it is responsible to lighten up on our protocol, since the vaccine is so effective, especially in people our age.”
Here’s where the problem comes in. Many teenagers are going to go crazy this summer. With their immune systems prepared to take down any COVID-19 they may encounter, their idea of “lightening up” is going to take the form of massive, indoor ragers and swarms of unmasked high schoolers crowding the Jersey shore. And while I understand how alluring those things are after the year we’ve had, I also understand that it’s not time for that stuff yet.
According to the CDC, fully vaccinated people can “visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing” and “visit with unvaccinated people (including children) from a single household who are at low risk for severe COVID-19 disease indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing.” What they still can’t do, however is attend “indoor large-sized in-person gatherings” or be maskless, even outdoors, in “crowded settings and venues.”
When you feel as untouchable as a freshly vaccinated high schooler does, the hardest thing in the world is listening when someone tells you no.
It’s going to be tempting, and people are going to slip up — I might slip up — but it’s crucial that we teenagers do our part and hold out for just a little while longer so we can really get this whole pandemic thing under control and out of the way.