The pandemic through the eyes of freshmen

Ahead of Halloween, the City of Chicago released guidelines regarding Halloween festivities. Though the rules forbid any house parties, some Lane students have already begun making plans to gather. (Screenshot from

By Mara Mellits, Reporter

The gym is decked out with streamers and balloons from the local Party City, rap is blaring from the speakers, and everyone you know is dressed in their fanciest clothes. You walk by the small clusters of people talking about the football loss from earlier today. The lights dim as you run towards your friends to get into the big dance circle in the middle of the gym. 

You’re at your freshman Homecoming dance, or HOCO —  a staple moment for many freshmen, a time to unwind and de-stress after a long and hard start to a new and exciting year. 

But this year, because of classes being held online due to COVID-19, some students hosted their own homecoming dance, or “FOCO” (fake homecoming), a backyard party attended by about 30 Lane Tech freshmen on Oct. 17. 

Since many schools across the country have resorted to online classes for the first part of the year, many teenagers have resorted to having their own parties that take the place of school events. As Halloween weekend creeps up, with Lane students planning an additional Halloween party, the widespread infection of “pandemic fatigue” seems to be making its course.   

Pandemic fatigue has been described as a “public weariness and a growing tendency to risk the dangers of the coronavirus” in a recent New York Times article. “The rituals of hope and unity that helped people endure the first surge of the virus have given way to exhaustion and frustration.”

Sophia Silvercase, Div. 455, attended the recent FOCO. “We went to this girl’s house and it was pretty much just like this outdoor party where we would take pictures and we just met some people.”

She also said she wore a mask and tried to keep her distance except when around her close friends. 

Another attendee, Alice Queiroz, Div. 480, mentioned that the attendees kept their masks on except when they would take them off for pictures. 

Mayor Lightfoot recently said in a press conference from Oct. 22, that Chicago is in its second wave of the virus.

That’s why we have been preaching about limiting the size of gatherings, about wearing a mask everywhere you can, and particularly outside,” Lightfoot said.

Silvercase said that she thought going to this FOCO was risky.

“I considered that, especially because there were some girls that were supposed to go, I think maybe like five or six girls, but they were exposed [to COVID], so they couldn’t go,” Silvercase said. “So I was a little worried about it.”

This comes after the city’s positivity rate for COVID grew and is now 8.1% as of Oct. 30. Dr. Allison Arwady, head of the Chicago Department of Public Health, said in the same press conference, Large gatherings and even small gatherings are posing significant health risks right now. There is a 30% chance that someone in a group of 25 people has COVID-19.

Gov. Pritzker also warned in a press conference from Oct. 20 that one of the factors in the rise of cases is pandemic fatigue. 

Lightfoot said, alluding to pandemic fatigue, “COVID-19 thrives in places and in circumstances where people let their guard down.”

According to Dr. Gilson, Lane’s school psychologist, people are tiring of coronavirus safety measures.

Every human being eventually tires of something. We’re creative individuals, and we are born to innovate and when necessity happens we react by coming up with some creative response,” Gilson said.

“I think with freshmen, they have a fantasy in their mind of what this year looks like and I think they’re just very eager to capture experiences that can replicate that in their mind,” Gilson continued. “We speak in words but think in pictures. And I think everyone has that image, that picture in their mind — that doesn’t really deliver in a pandemic.”

She also said that there would be less pandemic fatigue if we had an end date.

I don’t know when this is going to change, but it’s very hard to change your way of life and then just wait.”

Gilson said that the pressure of high school expectations could lead freshmen down the path of pandemic fatigue a lot quicker than others because they are in a new environment with new expectations that allow them to let their guard down more easily. 

She also said it makes sense that freshmen are going to want human connections, especially considering how they missed out on certain 8th grade traditions as well. 

It blows up your world. Your world becomes much more expansive,” Gilson said. “I think that the moment we’re in, for a lot of our freshmen, that fantasy isn’t really delivering.” 

She also said that there’s a power that comes from interacting with people, and when people are alone, their thinking can become very narrow and circuitous. 

Queiroz also said she feels she’s missing out on her freshman year. 

“I mean you watch all the movies and they talk about freshman year being one of the weirdest but like exciting years and I just feel like we’re not experiencing that,” Queiroz said.

Gilson also said that maybe there’s more Lane can do for their freshmen such as creating sanctioned opportunities for people to connect. Alanna Gonodue, Div. 162, the President of the Executive Board, which is responsible for planning school events, says that the Executive Board is currently working on planning events for the freshmen in the future. 

But, is it fair to blame the students? Gilson says no.

 “People need people and it’s completely understandable that teenagers are going to push the edges of this and see what can be done and they desperately want to connect, which makes them normal.

She added, “I think it’s up to the students and families to exercise judgment, but it’s also up to institutions like … Lane to create opportunities for people to safely connect.

Both freshmen said that the social aspect of school is one of the things they missed the most. Will their need for social interaction push the limits once again? 

There are many freshmen already planning Halloween parties in a similar fashion to the FOCO that was recently held, according to Queiroz.

“I know a lot of people are having high school parties but now they’re just outside instead of inside so that it’s safe,Queiroz said.

Lightfoot said in a press conference Oct. 1 that she is not canceling Halloween, but the city is forbidding any sort of house parties, no matter the size, which should put a halt to all future Halloween parties for the rest of coronavirus’s stay. 

In this wake of pandemic fatigue Gilson reminds us to “focus on what you have control over.

Do some of the things that just make your heart happy, take the time to connect with people you’re thinking of, and if you can connect with someone in a way that is safe and logical, you should definitely do it, just because it’s good for your brain and your heart.