Amidst a global pandemic, I was already interested as to what the new school year would look like, but being someone with an autoimmune disorder, which leaves me immuno-compromised, the concept more than piqued my curiosity.

I have Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease where the thyroid is affected and the body’s hormones aren’t producing the way they’re meant to, meaning that I’m immuno-compromised.

Hearing how other countries had been handling COVID-19 and the steps they took when it came to school – such as how in Australia schools were closed after any slight incline in cases – I was curious to see how America would approach the situation.

Personally, I believed that American schools would follow suit and understand how to go about protecting students from the virus based on how other school systems already were, but I was disappointed to see that things had not been taken as seriously as I’d hoped.

I support the decisions being made in Australia and feel that the precautions taken are necessary in order to prevent future cases, and I’m discouraged with many of the decisions made here in America. 

immuno-compromised
Cases in Oklahoma as per the CDC.

Earlier this year in March, things were handled very hastily, and quick decisions made for stressful work. Spring break – which usually concludes in mid-to-late March – was extended into late May, leaving the rest of the school year to be completed online. This wasn’t something I welcomed at the time, but it was something I supported and knew was what needed to happen for the safety of students and faculty. 

Figuring that the reasoning behind the decision of going online earlier this year would be carried on as school started up again, I believed we would continue our education online rather than in the classroom.

This new school year, however, was treated in a very different way.

Before the new school year began in August, we were informed that we would have a choice between three options; we could either continue our courses online, do a blended mix of online and in-person in which our parents would have to take us to school and drive us home (depending on the hours we chose to attend), or we could go to school full-time. 

Continuing my education online seemed to be the most reasonable option, but I knew it wouldn’t be beneficial for my mental health. The end of the 2019-2020 school year was rough. With going online, fearing what this new pandemic would bring and being alone most of my day, my anxiety was running high and I began to feel depressed and anxious, eventually experiencing anxiety and panic attacks.

Wanting to avoid this (although I am immuno-compromised), I came to the conclusion that home-schooling was not the best option for me. The blended option was second, but it would involve picking certain hours of the day to come to class: you would get to choose which hours you wanted to do in-person and which ones you preferred to take online.

Not wanting to burden my grandfather with driving me back and forth if I chose the blended option, I settled in going back to in-person learning. I would soon discover that, compared to March, things had once again been thrown together carelessly

Check out one teacher giving a room tour for her COVID-19 adapted room:

Although I had heard that we would be required to wear masks constantly, I was shocked to find out that the school had decided to only have us wear them during bus rides and in the hallways prior to a last-minute decision that we would in fact be wearing them throughout the day.

This should have been a priority and the first decision they made, but I was glad they made it, nonetheless. Even after this was decided, however, I have not seen it fully enforced. 

The buses are very crowded spaces, and with many other students surrounding me, I’ve been troubled to see half the bus’s occupants not wearing their masks properly or simply not wearing them at all.

I have seen students with masks as they enter the bus, to then tear them off as soon as they’ve been seated, saying snide comments about refusing to be told to cover their mouths.

Even when hearing these remarks and seeing masks being taken off, the bus drivers have not reinforced the requirement of masks, letting the students sit in their smugness of having done as they pleased.

It deeply upsets me that people seem to not have a care in the world for anyone but themselves, avoiding any minor inconvenience that could help others and taking off their masks with any chance they get. I’ve actually seen two people take off their masks to sneeze!

There are many teachers as well as students that are immuno-compromised in my particular school. Not taking the few precautions that have actually been put in place puts these people at more of a risk, yet whenever one of our extremely compromised teachers explained these rules, she told us that if one of us were to come into her classroom without a mask, she would not bother sending us to the office.

Hearing her say this nearly knocked me out of my seat! Here was someone who admitted that if she were to contract the virus she would most likely not survive due to the fact that she is immuno-compromised. Then, she acted as if masks were no big deal so much so that if we were to go against the rules we would not be punished!

On top of this, one class of mine allows students to take off their masks daily, even in groups or when we are all sitting next to one another. 

Around the teacher’s desks are sneeze guards, some surrounding the entirety of the desks and others only shielding the front. Teachers wore masks on the first few days of school, eventually switching to face shields, many of which are worn incorrectly or not at all.

Classes are as crowded as ever with students that refuse to social distance. Sports are continuing as if COVID-19 did not exist, and students are outside practicing with one another without paying any mind to social distancing. 

The little effort the school has taken to ensure our safety becomes pointless whenever it comes time for lunch, too. Instead of moving to a larger area where we could eat or spreading the tables out, more tables have been added to the cafeteria, pushing us closer together without the security of masks.

Alongside this, pep assemblies – an activity where students gather to cheer on the football team prior to a game – are still a go. Why the school has decided to combine the entire high school into one area and packing students closer together to scream and shout for sports that shouldn’t even be played at this time is beyond me. I will not be attending. 

It worries me that people in America are not taking this pandemic seriously, and it would be of no surprise to me if it were to last a few more years all because we threw caution to the wind, which with me being immuno-compromised means that for years I’ll carry this anxiety with me.

Not only am I disturbed by what little we have done to slow down the cases which seem to only rise, but by how little our President has seemed to care.

Even when warned by the World Health Organization, President Trump refused to listen, insisting that this was no bigger than the flu and “one day we’ll wake up and it will all have gone away.”

Americans responded to this by continuing their lives as though nothing were different, claiming that if Trump wasn’t worried, then why should they be? The excuse that the reason the United States has more cases than other countries is because we test more frequently instead of owning up to the fact that we’re not doing as we should appalls me. 

Being an immuno-compromised student in the United States is concerning, and I can only hope that things will change for the better and students and faculty will comprehend just how important simple safety measures are in preventing further spread of COVID-19.

Check out Donald Trump flippantly dismissing the virus: