Getting COVID the First Day of School

My positive COVID test that I got on the first day of school. Photo courtesy of Allie Ruden.

Allie Ruden

My positive COVID test that I got on the first day of school. Photo courtesy of Allie Ruden.

It was late-start Tuesday, the first day of school, and I woke up with a burning sore throat. I had evaded COVID the entire pandemic, but after 10 seconds of a Covid, test, I knew I had it. Two little lines, and I was back to bed. 

I started laughing when I got my test back. Somehow, my sickness timed perfectly to happen on my first day of senior year. It seemed somewhat poetic to bookend my first “normal” year of high school with getting COVID on the first day. 

I had this weird idea that somehow I was immune to COVID simply because I had avoided it this long. I had been exposed time and again and still nothing. The  mystery of the whole pandemic was who got it, why, and when did people get it. 

Schools went back to normal: no masks, no social distancing, and no CAPPSCAN machine checking me in. It felt like COVID was gone, or at least out of view. If I chose to ignore the reality of a pandemic, then maybe it would go away. Out of sight, out of mind. 

On August 29 2021, there were 2203 average cases in Oregon of COVID, but there were 466 this year at the same time, according to  the New York Times. COVID is still spreading, but not as much.  

These thoughts all went away when I contracted COVID. Although my symptoms were mild, they weren’t nothing. I had a sore throat, a little cough, and I was super tired. COVID is still very real, and is spreading in the community, but my classmates don’t seem very concerned about it, and I wasn’t either. 

The tricky part: there was no Zoom to join. The flexibility of last year and the year before was gone. Having COVID is also different from last year because I  had to wait 5 days before returning to school, regardless of my symptoms, yet there was nothing more than Canvas pages to keep connected.

We are in a weird period of treating COVID like any other illness, like a cold or allergies, and at the same time we treat it as a scary unknown virus, and I was not sure what to think either. 

As a community, during the height of the lockdown and pandemic, we praised the traditional school year and berated Zoom like there was no tomorrow, but did we abandon lockdown-policies too quickly or brashly? 

I think yes. 

With masks protecting us, and lunch tables spaced apart, and awkward Zoom meetings, we complained ceaselessly about how lockdown was the worst. Now, we are faced with the choice of more community interaction or increased contraction. 

I felt isolated from school when I got my result that Tuesday. I frantically emailed my new teachers, most of which had never even seen my face before, let alone taught me. If I would have had the resources that I did last year, the first week would have been easier. Some of my teachers didn’t even email me back the whole week. 

Keeping a school community safe will benefit from students’ being comfortable with staying at home when they are sick. Allowing students to work effectively from home and having easy communication with teachers would create better access for sick students. 

Continuing to bring the empathy that we had during the pandemic will continue to fuel a positive community. During the winter when colds and flus are also circulating, remembering how simple it was to stop transmission and returning to some small practices like masks, spacing, and mindfulness will make a big impact on keeping students healthy.