Slow COVID-19 reaction creates risk

Last month, I got into multiple arguments with several teachers telling me that the coronavirus is “just like the flu,” or “it’s not that big of a deal.”
Then, I went to Target. Rows of shelves were completely empty and deserted, and the usual overwhelming feeling of hundreds of stacked cans and boxes was replaced by one of doom and suspense. The same feeling you may get when you see the tide rolling back silently into the sea before a tsunami comes. A feeling that gives people the sense that something big is coming. And it is.

If you thought the coronavirus was no big deal or if you thought it was going to go away, wake up. Your life is about to change. Let’s start with the basics: is COVID-19 dangerous? ] Three factors determine the danger of an infectious agent: the rate of contagion, morbidity, and mortality. COVID-19 has a rate of transmission between 1.5 and 2.5. For every person infected, 1.5 to 2.5 more will be infected. In other words, it’s three times more contagious than the flu. Worse yet, COVID-19 is contagious during its up-to-two-week incubation period, before the presence of symptoms.

Here are some statistics: for each average group of 1000 people, 900 will perceive its effects asymptomatically, especially kids and teenagers. One hundred will display symptoms. And from those 100, 80 will have a rough time: dry coughs, headaches, and three weeks isolated at home. Of the 20 left, 15 will develop bilateral pneumonia, with difficulties breathing requiring hospital assistance to administer bronchodilators, corticosteroids, and oxygen. The remaining five will develop pulmonary fibrosis that will require immediate admission to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) with assisted breathing. Three of them will die.
Three out of a thousand doesn’t seem that bad, right? But the Earth is a big place, and it’s possible that two-thirds of its population will eventually get COVID-19. In this short period, this number has already overtaken the capacity of the US healthcare system. Doctors are confronted with the decision of having to sentence people to death because of the limited amount of beds and lung support systems.

Now, how does this involve students and the high school? Even though students will probably perceive COVID-19’s effects asymptomatically, they are a very important part of the chain of expansion of the epidemic. Students are virus carriers, and especially in closed high schools, students will plan to go out to hang out and party, which obliterates the intent of closing schools. Maybe you individually don’t have any close family that fits the description of people highly susceptible to COVID-19, but other people do. By coming in contact with many friends and people in the school and hallways, you could have already spread the virus to hundreds of other people and their families because of the geometric growth of this contagious disease.

But students are not the only ones who have to be responsible and mature in days like these. It was the school’s responsibility to research, evaluate, and cancel classes as soon as the word was out that the coronavirus was a worldwide epidemic. Our high school and others should have closed much earlier. I am quite certain that the administration in the Brookline school system was aware of the closing down of surrounding universities and schools and the cases of parents with coronavirus in Lincoln School. Yet, they seemed to unnecessarily delay the closing of all Brookline schools. It’s now time to wake up and act.

As the apocryphal Clint Eastwood said, there are two types of people in the world: the quick and the dead. Brookline High School has now taken action, but were we fast enough?