Six feet of separation


photo by Madison Drewry

Junior Madison Drewry and her younger sister Macy take an afternoon bike ride together on April 9 around the Live Oak Reserve. “It’s nice to see all the nature instead of being stuck inside,” said Drewry.

Since being declared a global pandemic, the county has seen an incredible surge in face masks and an unprecedented lack of toilet paper in response to COVID-19. To further prevent a large-scale outbreak within the community, numerous guidelines and instructions were set forth specifically encouraging social distancing. This has sparked a wave of controversy between those who remain glued to their phones waiting to receive the latest county update and those who continue to go about their daily lives unbothered. In response to the call for social distancing, students must now decide whether to adhere to the guidelines or continue to interact in public areas.

Waking up in a tropical paradise every day, junior Hannah Cannata has chosen the latter and remains unfazed by the increasing concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19 and the demands made by officials and the public alike to practice social distancing. Having spent the last few weeks with her friends in a beach condominium surfing and tanning, the news of the county-wide lockdown has not hindered Cannata’s plans at making the most of this unprecedented situation despite the warnings.

“I really thought social distancing was kind of stupid, I’ve already been around my friends for so long, what’s the point now?” Cannata said. “I think everyone needs to take a chill pill because it’s not that big a deal, if you’re concerned stay inside and if not, just do you.”

Juniors Izzy Pacheco and Kylee Ruf have followed a similar ideology. On April 2, a few days before the county officially went on lockdown, the two rushed to quickly put together a small birthday celebration for Ruf.

“We didn’t think to take many precautions because we’d already hung out and been exposed to each other [before].” Pacheco said.

Pacheco’s father Clay Pacheco had a say in the timing of the event as he had set his own rules in regards to the isolation of his home.

“[Since the official start of] quarantine, our family’s been on lockdown. Nobody in nobody out, period.” Clay Pacheco said.

While some students have taken a more relaxed approach to handling the social distancing orders, others and their families have heeded the guidelines, despite the difficult mental and physical  repercussions.

Senior Chris Ballentine has found the separation from his peers especially difficult to maintain.

“Because it’s so unexpected, we never really got the chance to say our goodbyes to all our mutual acquaintances,” Ballentine said. “It’s a terrible situation, but hopefully I can catch those going their separate ways during the summer because I know socializing during this time isn’t the best idea.”

Junior Jonah San Miguel has also struggled with maintaining friendships and connections while socially distancing himself.

“I wish there were some people I’d stayed in touch with during this time but they haven’t maintained a conversation or reached out…so I suppose it shows who you’re actually close with,” San Miguel said.

Students who choose to practice social distancing often experience increased feelings of isolation and loneliness according to Dr. David Dameron, a clinical psychologist at Mynd Matters Counseling in an article published by ABC News. Dr. Dameron suggests that changes in sleep, appetite and a loss of drive or enthusiasm are all common reactions to social isolation.

However, this is not the case for San Miguel. While he admits that the quarantine is taking a toll on his mental health in other ways, San Miguel’s concerns for others continue to outweigh his own desires and further his enthusiasm for social distancing.

“I’m so worried about receiving news of any of my friends or family testing positive or worse ending up in one of the hospitals right now that I’d much rather just stay inside to avoid contributing to the spread at all,” San Miguel said.

Junior Emily Taylor also attributes her reasoning for supporting social distancing to the prevention of continuing the spread of disease.

“I originally didn’t choose to socially distance, it seemed like a decision based solely on fear,” said Taylor. “But now I am socially distant for my friends, family and father. [He] works in healthcare and could be directly exposed at any time.”

Like Taylor, sophomore Abby Lee also experienced a change of heart when it came to social distancing.

“At first it wasn’t something I listened to because I didn’t think it would get as bad as it has,” Lee said . “But now I’m actually following the rules so this can go by faster.”

Given the recent surge in support of social distancing, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a top expert on infectious disease and member of the coronavirus task force stated at a White House press conference on Monday, April 6 that the drastic social distancing measures that some Americans have participated in seems to be having an effect in major disease hotspots, however Fauci warns against prematurely celebrating the results of social distancing.

The U.S. is currently reporting 425,107 active cases as of April 8, with 15,456 of those cases occurring in Florida.

For students like San Miguel, Ballentine, Lee and Taylor, the practical implications of socially distancing are worth the short-term sacrifices being made.

“I’ve experienced tragedy in my family many times and I certainly don’t want to cause that for someone else,” said Taylor. “If staying in my house for a few more weeks will support bringing the numbers down, so be it.”