Carrillo students try balancing isolation with outside world

Image created by Prensa staff

by Josephine Rivera-Hoagland

As the anniversary of our self-imposed quarantine begins to come round the corner, many students are left wondering where they stand in this desolate world. Up until recently, it seemed as though a twisted dystopian society had arisen–people confined to their homes, forced to wear filters before venturing beyond their front door, and only those who are either reckless or ignorant dare to gather with their friends regularly. On this weak foundation, the new theory of having a select social bubble grew, and now Maria Carrillo students can see a few friends or family members, if only for the sake of their sanity.

In a survey of a small group of students, several agreed that although life is hard right now, limiting one’s social circle will prove the best for the Maria Carrillo community; the more precautions one took the better in the name of public safety. However, now that the rollout of approved vaccines has begun in our communities, hope has slowly begun to emerge.

Doctors across the board agree that hypothetically, social bubbles should be able to preserve one’s mental health while only slightly increasing the risk, and small meetups “can add some normalcy back to your life,” according to Juan Prudente, M.D. Also, according to Today News, socializing can lead to an influx of dopamine, the neurotransmitter that triggers happiness, simultaneously decreasing the chance of depression.

Meanwhile, any family “who hasn’t thought about this concept or implemented it into their family’s plan [should] think about it,” the Mayo Clinic’s Dr. Rajapakse said in an interview with Jason Howland. The best social bubbles have at max 10 people and three families, and basic ground rules are set beforehand, such as how much each family will travel, whether they will meet indoors or outdoors and how often the separate pods will meet up. With the relatively recent implementation of vaccination drives, it is still to be determined if these guidelines for social bubbles will remain the same.

As the community works to defeat the virus, it is important to observe that the majority of these high school students have adhered to shelter in place rules and are doing their best to keep Carrillo safe.

In a Google Forms survey of a group of 18 MCHS students, about half said they had seen one or two friends in January, with just over one-fourth reporting that they had met up with more than six. The majority of students said that they wore masks when hanging out with others, and about half required the meeting to be outdoors and/or with social distancing. As the community works to defeat the virus, it is important to observe that the majority of these high school students have adhered to shelter in place rules and are doing their best to keep Carrillo safe.

However, when discussing whether or not the general student body has been complying with shelter in place, several participants pointed out that on social media, photos of large groups of people had been posted, often maskless and without correct distancing. In a follow-up question, students on average said that they thought others had been seeing around five people outside their households, although some said as many as fifteen. This is indicative of how quickly student perceptions can shift based on images off of social media.

To my surprise, about half of the students also said that they’d seen others from organizations, such as for team sports or religious gatherings. For these activities, the number of people varied widely, from only one or two others to groups of more than 30. This may show the students’ desire to maintain some type of social connection despite this wide spread emergency.

As for guidelines, a little over half of the students said that they work with their parents to set the rules on how many people they get to see. The rest were evenly divided between themselves choosing their bubbles, and their parents had complete control; it seems like a balance between the two worked with most Carrillo families, and most medical guidelines for social circles recommend discussion above all else in order to set ground rules.

In another question, a third of students responded they saw no relatives in January, while nearly 40 percent said that they had seen one or two. A little less than a third of the student body said they had seen three to five relatives in January.

Generally, those surveyed agreed that Carrillo students should be as cautious as possible for the next few months to “go back to normal” more quickly. As of now, the school board has approved a plan for high school students to return to campus at the end of April, but concrete plans about what that will look like for MCHS are not yet in place.

Since prolonged isolation is not recommended, it is hoped that the vaccination efforts that have been rolling out every week in the county will allow the students to regain their sense of connection, their ties to the school, and their place in the community.

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