Candice Anvari staff writer
Eva Levin copy editor
Note: All names (except for Lorena Molina) were changed to protect the privacy of those involved.
He hung LED lights on his living room walls. He created a music playlist to play on his loudspeakers. While preparing, he thought to himself, “Maybe this isn’t the best idea,” but he decided to go through with it regardless. Junior Will Clayton (see note above) posted the party invitation on his Snapchat story for all his friends to see, but he didn’t expect his peers to repost his story for even more people to see. He didn’t think too many people would actually appear at his house on Saturday, Jan. 2, so Clayton was shocked when over 40 students knocked on his door that night. During winter break, students traveled, attended gatherings of over five people and engaged in parties, all of which violate COVID-19 restrictions.
On Nov. 13, the California Department of Health issued a Travel Advisory that was updated on Jan. 6, 2021. The advisory stated all Californians should avoid traveling 120 miles from their home, unless they are traveling for essential purposes, which include work, economic services, health, immediate medical care and safety. In regards to gatherings, the CDC does not recommend gathering with others outside of the household because spending time with a medium or large group of people increases a person’s risk of coming in contact with the coronavirus. However, if one chooses to interact with non-household members, masks should be worn and those involved should remain six feet apart to limit potential exposure to COVID-19.
When Clayton initially decided to throw a “small party,” he did not believe that anyone would be at risk of contracting COVID-19 because he “trusted” his close friends.
“Honestly, I expected about 20 people to come over so we could catch up and just have fun together, so I didn’t think we would be at risk of getting the virus because I normally hang out with a few of my friends and I’ve been perfectly fine,” Clayton said. “When an unexpected amount of people showed up, that’s when I started to worry because they came in without masks and I couldn’t really bring it upon myself to turn them away because I really missed being around people.”
During the party, Clayton realized matters were getting “out of hand” as more and more students showed up without masks.
“Suddenly, 40 people became 50, and then 50 people became 60. At that point, I really didn’t know what to do. I realized that I made a huge mistake by posting this on my Snapchat story and I honestly regretted giving in to my selfish [desires]. They were coming from everywhere. I saw Pali students, Fairfax students and obviously people from Beverly,” Clayton said. “A few days later, I further came to regret my decisions when I tested positive for COVID.”
Cedars-Sinai nurse Lorena Molina (Beverly class of 2001) warned against “large gatherings” because hospitals do not have enough beds for the “overwhelming” amount of patients.
“Now that we’re so slammed with patients, we have ICU patients on our floor and I’m not trained for ICU, so it’s not the safest environment. Luckily, we have operating room nurses that are assisting us right now, but we have really critical patients that should be in ICU, but our ICU’s are extremely full, so every day the types of patients we have on our floors change,” Molina said.
Although he has not experienced severe symptoms, Clayton passed the virus onto his mother, Jane Clayton.
“I let Will throw a party because I seriously thought it was just going to be a very small gathering,” Jane Clayton said. “On that night, he asked me if I could go spend some time with my family so he could have the house free for him and his friends. By leaving him alone, I made a great error in judgement because I should’ve known better than to leave my 16-year-old son alone on a Saturday night. Now, we both have the virus, so we are isolating ourselves at home.”
Jane Clayton is not as concerned for their recovery because they have not experienced dangerous symptoms, but she is worried of passing the virus on to her parents.
“My parents are elderly, which is why I was so angry at Will Clayton for throwing this party. My parents need my help almost on a daily basis, and now I had to hire a nurse to watch over them because I do not want them to get the virus and be put on a ventilator. That is definitely my worst fear,” Jane Clayton said.
In the hospital, Molina had to comfort dying patients because their families could not enter the hospital due to Cedar-Sinai’s safety protocols.
“On my actual shift, I’ve had four or five people die in my care,” Molina said. “I’ve held the phone so my patients can FaceTime their families to say their goodbyes and that is really hard for both the patients and their families because you don’t want the last time you see someone to be through a device. It’s absolutely devastating.”
Senior Virginia Warner lost a grandparent to COVID-19. Shortly after, she made the “mistake” of attending Clayton’s party because of her grief.
“I was so upset. To this day, I can’t even accept that my grandma is not here anymore. I didn’t even get to say an official goodbye to her because the hospital does not allow visitors,” Warner said. “I was filled with grief, so I thought I had nothing to lose by attending Clayton’s party. [But afterwards,] it just made me feel worse because I felt guilty for being stupid with a virus that took my grandma from me.”
Not all students violated COVID-19 restrictions in the “traditional” way, by attending parties and large gatherings. Some violated the restrictions by going on vacation. Over winter break, junior John McDonald traveled with his family to Las Vegas, a city that made a name for itself early on in the pandemic by opening up casinos and hotels.
“We were really tired of being cooped up in the house all the time, so we decided to take a family trip to Vegas for Christmas weekend,” McDonald said. “When we got there, it was so packed because I think a lot of families had the same mindset that we did.”
Over the course of the weekend, McDonald’s family realized that they “needed to go home.”
“We left pretty early because it was obvious that we were going to get COVID if we stayed any longer,” McDonald said. “The hotel was swarmed with people who didn’t even wear their masks properly, so we felt very unsafe in that environment. We thought we were better off being cooped up at home.”
However, once the McDonald family returned home, they did not get tested nor did they quarantine for 14 days.
Molina believes that it is “important” for Los Angeles to take the virus seriously and take into account CDC recommendations because COVID-19 rates are increasing daily.
“I think the best thing we can all do is to stay home. People are dying with minimal comfort because this virus can be painful. I think that one of the most challenging things about COVID is that we don’t always know how it’s going to affect certain people, so it’s crucial that we don’t dismiss it as a virus that only the elderly suffer the most from,” Molina said. “The numbers will only keep rising if we don’t do our part by staying home.”