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BHS Positive Case Community Letters Cause Unnecessary Anxiety

The letters about COVID cases offer just enough information to trigger stress, but not enough for students to understand that there is little reason to be anxious.

Does having to worry about contracting COVID-19 at school make you anxious? Amid taking numerous precautions against getting infected with COVID-19, many students are still concerned about the rising case numbers. Although most of the precautions — such as masking — are necessary and help to lessen the anxiety of students and families, not all precautions are able to do so. Sending out an email to the whole school every time someone tests positive for COVID-19, as is the case with Positive Case Community Letters, does the exact opposite. Berkeley High School (BHS) must eliminate Positive Case Community Letters, because all they do is spawn unnecessary stress in the community.

Navigating school after being online is already stressful enough. The threat of COVID-19 hanging over everyone’s heads makes people even more anxious. Only the people who come in contact with the person who tested positive need to be sent a letter alerting them of that fact.

It is difficult to tell how the cases in the community affect people who have never been in the same room with the person who tested positive. BHS gives us the right amount of information to make us anxious, yet not enough to know we don’t have to be. Community letters address the student body, in theory because anyone could have come in contact with an infected student, but the risk of them getting COVID-19 is very low, especially if they have been fully vaccinated, as most students already are. This causes students to worry that they have been near someone who tested positive and don’t know it.

Sending Positive Case Community Letters promotes stigma as well as anxiety. Knowing someone has contracted the virus, students may start trying to find out who it is to make sure they haven’t recently been near them. This has the potential to lead to a cycle of rumor and shame that does nothing to alleviate stress. In fact, instances like these could cause students to stay home from school, which will make the return to school much more difficult. 

Being anxious about COVID-19 at school is pointless. While we are still riding out the wave that COVID-19 has created, people will continue to get sick — there is simply no way around that. If we want to return to normal life, we have to learn to use precautions that do help us and not constantly worry about something we can only do so much against. 

The administration should only send COVID-19 case alerts to people who have been in direct contact with someone who has COVID-19. Those people of course need to leave school and be tested, but people who have not come into contact with the sick person do not need the added anxiety of knowing that someone has gotten it. Therefore, to be considerate of students’ mental health and the stress high schoolers are already under, BHS should eliminate the Positive Case Community Letters and with it, eliminate unnecessary anxiety.