Op-Ed: A letter to those deciding to travel over winter break


Anne via Flickr

As the holiday season approaches, the risk of COVID-19 transmission can increase according to health officials.

Danielle Tranter, Reporter

Dear fellow lonely young person,

I understand your struggle. You’ve been trapped in your home for almost a year now, and that has been tough. Unable to hug your parents, dance with your friends, kiss your partner, I’m sure you’re longing for physical contact from the ones you miss most.

However, the world is facing a public health crisis, and the United States is responsible for more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world. While it may be difficult to stay away from your loved ones this holiday season, celebrating virtually or at a safe social distance could save precious lives.

The number of coronavirus cases has skyrocketed since December began. The New York Times reported that as of Dec. 15, the US had an average of 209,600 new COVID-19 cases per day. California is responsible for 31,672 of those cases, or about 15.1% of the national average. This heightened amount of cases led to a record breaking number of virus-related deaths nationwide, which is expected to worsen as the winter months get colder and holiday celebrations carry on.

Fourth year CSUN student Lilibeth Orozco visited her parent’s house in Santa Clarita during Thanksgiving break. Though she had quarantined and tested negative for the coronavirus prior to staying the long weekend, she, her two siblings and her parents still contracted the virus.

“At first it was a sore throat and coughing and sneezing. Then the next day there was a switch, it was like death,” Orozco said about her initial coronavirus symptoms. “It was sharp headaches, fevers, sore throat, coughing.”

For two days she was bedridden with body aches and began losing her sense of taste and smell. Even after most of her symptoms began to fade, her taste buds have yet to go back to normal. “Hot Cheetos don’t taste like they did before,” she said with pain in her voice.

After almost three weeks of self-isolating in her childhood bedroom, Orozco is waiting until she and her family test negative for COVID-19 before returning to her Northridge apartment. With the exception of her father who is still fighting fatigue, her family shows no sign of worsening symptoms. While the Orozcos are fortunate to have all survived, thousands of other families will spend their holidays grieving the ones they lost to this pandemic.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 306,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 and related complications since the virus first reached the U.S. It’s estimated that 195,829 more people will die before April 1, 2021, 95.1% of which will likely be 50 years or older. Those could be our parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles or friends, colleagues, former classmates and partners. The people we love most will suffer through grief and illness because of some people’s vast desire to spend this pandemic holiday with their family.

These dark times won’t last forever though, with the vaccine from Pfizer-BioTech being delivered across the country. Medical workers and those living in long term living facilities will be the first to receive the vaccine, but it’s predicted that the rest of the population will start receiving the vaccine during the summertime.

If enough people are able to receive the vaccine before the next holiday season, then everything will be that much closer to going back to normal and holiday traditions may commence. Until 70-90% of us are vaccinated however, the contagion rate will continue to rise and it’s likely more of our loved ones will die. To prevent that, young people should follow Orozco’s new logic and tell their families, “everyone test negative or I’m not coming home.”

Be smart and save lives. Avoid mass gatherings, wear a mask and wash your hands often because peoples’ lives depend on it. Happy holidays!

Warm wishes,
A Concerned Peer