Wilcox’s Continued COVID Worries


Despite 3 years having passed, worries of COVID continue to plague Wilcox. Courtesy of Megan Breslin and Elena De Schutter.

COVID-19 has had its impact on everyone’s life over the past three years. As conditions ease, is it finally time to let our guard down? Mask mandates, distance policies, and COVID cases have relaxed over the past year, bringing an end to many covid precautions around the world. Wilcox High School lifted its mask mandate in spring 2022, and many students have reported they feel less worried about catching the virus around campus.

The mask mandate has been one of the longest and most impactful policies following the pandemic, and a large complaint among citizens and environmentalists. 50% of Wilcox students no longer wear masks for two major reasons; not being worried about getting sick and not liking the way they feel. “I’ve gotten the vaccine and all my boosters,” says sophomore Todd Beadell. “I only wear a mask where it’s required.” Establishments such as healthcare settings and senior citizen homes continue to enforce masks. The state of California highly recommends masks at schools, public transport—such as airplanes, buses, and trains—, and work offices. The other half of the Wilcox community still choose to wear masks for reasons including fear of getting sick, simply being used to them, or to cover their face. 

Last school year’s absence policy required 10 day quarantine and a negative test before returning to school after contracting the virus. In January of 2022 the testing site at the Mission City Theater had a line so long it stretched outside the building, wrapping around Calabasas Boulevard. At this peak, Santa Clara School district reported 432 student absences and 47 teacher absences. This year shows numbers much lower, with the November 28 report showing 17 student absences and 10 staff. The policy for absence due to COVID-19 has also lessened, now requiring only a 5 day quarantine and a negative test. While public health guidelines reflect a relaxed reaction to the pandemic compared to last year, 21% of students reported they think there should be more precautions regarding COVID-19 at Wilcox. “I think people at school are generally pretty good at staying home when they’re sick with covid, but I know some students who come to school sick with a cold who should stay home,” said sophomore Belen Le Ray. “I also miss those hand sanitizer things we had in front of the bathroom last year”. Polls also show 42% of Wilcox students liked being tested every week at school to ensure they don’t have the virus. 

Perhaps the biggest difference between the reaction to the virus compared from this year to last year is the introduction and accessibility of vaccines. The first vaccine was introduced just before the 2021 school year and only available for those 16 years or older. As the year continued another vaccine and two more boosters were released to the public, and with it, the community started to relax. In Santa Clara County a reported 87% of the population were fully vaccinated by summer of 2022 with all four shots.

Several Santa Clara residents feel the pandemic is coming to an end, however wastewater in the county’s sewers still detect a high amount of SARS-CoV-2 in samples collected from the county’s sewershed. Catching traces of the virus in sewer water is a technique being used since the beginning of the pandemic, detecting presence of COVID-19 from people both with and without symptoms. This brings up another theory that  will become a sickness similar to the flu, requiring a yearly vaccine. “I think we’ll need to get a shot every year but when people say they have covid it won’t be a big problem, just like your average flu or cold.” said senior Alex De Schutter. 

So is Wilcox still worried about getting covid? It’s hard to say. 50% of students report yes, 50% report no. “I’m worried about covid because I had it last year and it was awful, it ruined my winter break.” said sophomore Belen Le Ray. Senior Ella Couch agreed, “I’m just worried about getting sick in general,” she said. “But I do think it’s safer this year compared to last year. Covid now is more protected and in smaller areas. “I think people are panicking too much about it, it’s not that big a thing anymore. If you have covid just stay home,” says freshman Tommer Kerem, who also said he wasn’t worried about getting the virus. Data shows people are much more relaxed to virus exposure and going out publicly without a mask, but it is apparent that worries about covid still exist at Wilcox High School.