courtesy of Grace Friedberg
To: Governor Murphy
From: Noah Metz
Dear Governor Murphy,
We did it! Well, we almost did it. We are almost at the end of one of the craziest school years in recent memory. And with the end of the school year comes many things to look forward to: the weather is warmer, the gradual reopening of stores and restaurants (thanks to your policies) and of course for us students: prom. Yes prom, the dance (emphasis on dance) for juniors and seniors that typically caps off a difficult school year with a bang.
Of course, in the middle of a pandemic that has claimed far too many lives, prom should run a little differently. However, the decreasing cases of COVID-19, combined with the fact that according to New York Times, almost 50 percent of New Jersey’s population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, would lead me to assume that prom would be able to run more like a typical year. Oh dear, how wrong I was.
Let’s go over the COVID-19 restrictions, set by you, Governor, which will be in place for prom this year. As expected, masks must be worn at all times. This of course makes sense and is in line with your regulations that have existed since the start of the pandemic. There will be no guests and no non-seniors. Although I will miss my girlfriend, who is a junior, this also makes sense. Despite what it may say on the poster, prom at WHS is usually a senior-only event, besides for invited juniors and other invitees. So this “rule” is one that does not change much from a regular prom.
However, after these logical guidelines, your rules start to get a bit wonky. The next rule is that those attending will be split up into groups of 150-200 people. The reason for this split is your limit of 200 people in one outdoor venue. Social distancing will be required, even from friends and dates. No matter if kids have hung out with their friends recently or whatever they are doing after the prom, six feet is required. And finally, here’s the kicker, there will be no dancing at WHS’ perennial school dance. Yes, prom will look more like a socially distanced dinner (because according to you, eating food is apparently okay) than a dance.
Now on the surface, I may sound like an entitled teenager, and I very well may be. However, the problem with the guidelines is that they are not consistent with some of your other policies, and what scientific research on COVID-19, and more specifically the vaccine, is showing.
First, let’s look at what is allowed under your COVID-19 guidelines: sports. Recently, some of WHS’ winter sports teams finished up fabulous seasons. It was truly a miracle that these sports were played and the season was completed, especially those involving contact such as basketball. During the basketball season, WHS played 13 teams in a span of 36 days. Given the fact that there is an average of 15 players on each team, that means that the Westfield basketball team directly, or by association, came in contact with 195 players this season from all over the state. Furthermore, this does not count the fact that WHS’ opponents came in contact with other teams, and those teams came in contact with other teams, and so on. All while unmasked and not socially distanced (while on the court of course, not on the bench). If you are going to allow these sports to be played and all of these players to be in contact with other players (all of whom are dripping with sweat and breathing heavily from their physical exertion), then what is the problem with hosting a typical prom where people are masked up?
Another recent development makes the argument for a more normal prom even more compelling. Let’s rewind a few days to April 19. This important day was the day that President Biden announced that all people over the age of 16 are eligible for the vaccine. This was not only a monumental day in the fight against COVID-19, but it may go down as one of the greatest days in American history (or at least in my lifetime). When vaccinated, science has shown that severe cases and deaths from COVID-19 have been reduced down to virtually zero. Furthermore, scientists have shown that one dose of the vaccine increases immunity by 80 percent This is on top of the fact that according to the CDC, only .05 percent of COVID-19 deaths have been of people between ages 0-18 – and that was before a vaccine existed.
Because of the vaccine, you have allowed restaurants, shops and even stadiums to open up partially. Stadiums are allowing admission to anyone who shows proof of vaccine or proof of a negative test within a few days of the event. From there, spectators are allowed to hang out with the people they are going with while distancing themselves from others. The New York Red Bulls (who play in New Jersey) have recently opened up their stadium at 15 percent capacity, or 3,750 fans. Yes, more than 200 people are allowed at these events and yes, people can also dance if they choose. If these events can take place, why can’t a school dance that contains people that are (a) at low risk and (b) vaccinated or tested already, take place?
Now, it is obvious that your policies regarding prom are not lining up with your other COVID-19 policies, and quite frankly are not in line with the science either, which you promised to follow. So, what is stopping you from creating the same guidelines for prom?
Well, the answer is that no one knows. You had previously said in a press conference that as the number of cases dropped and the number of vaccinated individuals rose, you would look at COVID-19 restrictions “with an eye towards prom and graduation.” Well, now is the time to take a look at the restrictions. Please allow those who have been following your COVID-19 guidelines since day one to experience one last hurrah of high school after the most difficult of years.
You alone have the power to create a positive prom experience for seniors who haven’t seen many of their friends since last March. Please use it.
WHS’ entitled teenager