Just Stay Home.


Photos by Lainey Holland

Every night, I watch the news and I’m horrified by what I see. Refrigerated trucks line up outside of hospitals in New York, waiting to pick up bodies. Daughters and sons across the country describe, through tears, what it feels like to lose a parent or grandparent to the novel coronavirus –– they can’t even have a proper funeral. They did not realize when they had already given them their last hug or kiss goodbye. 

Scrolling through Instagram, I see pictures of healthcare workers who have sore, red marks across their faces from wearing an N95 mask for 12 hours. When they come home, they risk spreading the virus to their loved ones. 

It makes my heart hurt.

I find a little bit of relief when I tune in to Gov. Andy Beshear’s daily updates at 5 p.m. Virginia Moore, an ASL interpreter, signs along as Andy recites: “We will get through this together.” Together we will get through this. I look forward to this part of my day because it fills me with hope that this will get better –– I truly believe it. 

But one day during the update I heard something unusual. It sounded like chanting and yelling and I thought, surely I’m not imagining this. I wasn’t. It didn’t take long before I got a Courier-Journal notification confirming my suspicions. 

Protestors were clumped together, demanding that the state’s economy reopen; a violation of our new encouraged principle of social distancing, putting themselves and others at risk. 

There it goes again; the anger building up inside my chest. Why can’t people just stay home, I thought. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for free speech. I’m a journalist, after all! But I think it’s important to understand that protests or other civil liberties might need to look a little different during a national emergency. 

It’s not just adults. I think back to all the posts from other high schoolers I’ve seen. They joke about how “spring break looks different here” as they pose with their friends. They talk about how “social distancing is so fun” as they cuddle up next to their boyfriend or girlfriend in a park. And there’s the classic “#quarantine” caption with their post showing that they are, in fact, not alone, or in quarantine. 

I want to get a few things straight:

Quarantine is not a photo opportunity to get dressed up with your friends and go to a park, thinking it’s okay because you’re outside. 

Quarantine is not chilling at someone’s house with your buddies, thinking it’s okay because you aren’t in public. 

Quarantine is certainly not saying you “should be in Cancun” while you post from your friend’s backyard pool party, just because your Spring Break plans were canceled. 

I’m 17. I get it. We use humor and social media to cope with our thoughts. We want everyone to see what a good time we’re having. But, at what point does joking about “the ‘rona” transgress from a way of coping to flat-out ignoring the larger issues at hand?

I’m not writing this to be rude. We have enough negativity to deal with right now. I’m upset, and tired of seeing one person after another not take this seriously. However, it would be foolish of me to just go on an angry tirade at other people. If I can inspire just one person to stop putting others in danger and stay home, I’ll be happy. 

What I’ve learned is we have to get through this together (if you haven’t heard it enough from Andy already). This virus does not discriminate. 

Even though I am staying home, my dad could pick it up at the store from someone who is still choosing to hang out with people. That’s scary. Thankfully, my family has pretty good immune systems. My grandparents that live in different states? Not so much. I don’t want them to have to fight this alone in a hospital because someone else was careless. 

My hope for our state, country, and honestly, our world, is that we don’t pick and choose what to obey. It is going to take an intentional effort from every single person every single day if we are going to beat this. 

That’s easy for me to say, though. I come from loving parents. We have food in our pantry. My dad has the privilege of working from home. 

I think we forget all too often, typing behind our screens, that it’s not so cut-and-dry for everybody. It’s uncomfortable to admit that you have privilege; but, you have to recognize that privilege before you can even try to understand other people. I want to be extremely sensitive to people whose world is being turned upside down because of the coronavirus.

There are people who live in abusive homes –– staying home isn’t safe for them. There are people who work tirelessly to make ends meet for their family yet they still don’t have food for themselves. There are people who need their business to open up right now because their employees and themselves are going without pay. There are people in our own community who don’t even have a home –– it’s a shelter or a tent. 

It would be foolish of anyone not in those situations, including myself, to heckle others about not staying home or social distancing. You never know what someone is going through to begin with, but COVID-19 has brought about a whole new wave of challenges that could be wrecking someone behind the scenes. 

I want to encourage people, especially teens, who have the privilege of staying home to do so; not just for yourself, but for the people you live with, the people you love, and the strangers at the grocery store you’ll never see again. Our actions have consequences –– you could be saving the lives of multiple people just by staying home. 

None of this is easy. I miss going out in public. I wanted to say goodbye to my senior friends at school before they go off to college. I wish I could visit my grandparents. But, a million times over, I’d rather stay at home than see the people I love get sick. I encourage you to do so, too. 

 Let’s use this time to rest. Call your grandma. Support a charity you admire. Take a walk. Have a game night with your family. Binge the show you’ve always wanted to watch. Bake banana bread. Heck, maybe even pick up a new skill or hobby. 

Staying home and social distancing doesn’t mean social disconnection. Keep in touch with the people you love. If there’s someone you miss talking to, I’m sure they would love to hear from you. 

And, remember, if someone hits you up asking to hang out, ask yourself, what would Andy say?

“We can’t be doin’ that!”