[STAFF EDITORIAL] Validate emotions and losses, stay accountable


Noa Ní Aoláin Gross

Increased state restrictions and national recommendations from the CDC send the consistent message to stay home. Each of us plays a role in keeping the community, in and outside of SPA, safe.

With the transition back into full time distance learning, complaints and concerns about the extent and length of the pandemic are more prevalent than ever. It is important to not lose sight of the responsibility each individual has to the health of the St. Paul Academy community, whether at a distance or in person.

Students are simultaneously distracted and bored, and rightfully so. Things look bleak. And as each day passes, it gets harder and harder to imagine a world in which the pandemic is never truly over. Major high school milestones are canceled. Nuanced connection is replaced with artificial-feeling Google Meets. Traditions are lost completely or reimagined in a virtual format. Nothing can be relied on, and every day brings more change.

The idea that students need to just hang in there, embrace the opportunities for creativity, and learn from the exciting challenges is exceedingly frustrating, especially since COVID-19 has dominated students’ lives since last spring. This is not to say that moments of joy and light are not important during the pandemic, but tone deaf attempts at ignoring the gravity of the situation are unwanted and unnecessary.

It is also crucial to recognize the impacts SPA students’ actions have on the larger community.”

Looking back on the spring, it seems like it was almost easy to take the pandemic seriously. The mask wearing and the isolation seemed temporary and necessary. Now, people have become desensitized to the pandemic, learning to live with it rather than actively working to prevent spread. For context, on May 18, the day that Minnesota’s stay at home order was lifted, there were 15,668 recorded COVID-19 cases in the state. As of Nov. 15, there have been 224,000 cases in Minnesota, according to the Minnesota Department of Health, and they continue to rise at an exponential rate. So why are students taking the pandemic less seriously than they did in the spring? If anything, social distancing and safety precautions should be stricter than ever.

This is not the case. At the moment, winter sports at SPA, many of them being intensively contact sports, such as basketball or hockey, are prepared to have a relatively normal season. Although students have been sent home from school, where they sat at a six-foot distance from each other while masked all day, athletes are being told it is safe to play a close contact sport in an indoor gym, where masks are optional.

Additionally, although students are no longer coming to campus, many will continue to see friends and family outside of their immediate family in non-socially-distant ways that are simply unsafe and reckless. Students need to hold themselves and each other accountable for their actions. Think back to that spring 2020 mindset. Ignoring the problem is not going to make it go away.

Of course, this is not a black-and-white situation. For some students, it may be particularly difficult to remain at home. Students with difficult home lives may be unable to social distance, which is all the more reason that students who are able to social distance do so.

It is also crucial to recognize the impacts SPA students’ actions have on the larger community. While many SPA students may be relatively unaffected by the less obvious effects of the pandemic, or be able to pay for the proper health care and resources should they need it, that is not the case for many. SPA students are by no means entirely isolated to the school environment — students go home, or to the store, and could inadvertently spread COVID-19 to more vulnerable people. Choosing to not social distance when one has the option to, is putting others at extreme risk.

Being isolated and socially distant is hard. However, there is also no denying that if students want things to go back to the way they were, they first have to stop making irresponsible decisions, and become more comfortable making sacrifices that may be sad in the short term, but help the overall community in the long term.

The concept of community unification has been preached exhaustively by the school, news sources, and politicians alike. While the message is old and stale at this point, the only way to have a united SPA community is for each and every student to commit to protecting and maintaining community health. We must use the privilege we have to do the responsible thing. We cannot think on an individual basis. Every single student and adult in the SPA community is struggling in one way or another. Yes, following social distancing and engaging in responsible practices is hard. Yes, it is different. We need to do it anyway.

This was originally published in the November print issue of The Rubicon.