At any other time, the hilarious photo of teenagers pretending to lick each other’s faces won’t make the national headlines.
But what she posted on Facebook on November 7 – three shimmering girls wearing crowns, smiles and red roses among young boys as they kiss – is a symbol of the catastrophic division among Americans in the midst of a pandemic.
On the same day, 1,007 Americans died from the highly contagious virus sweeping the nation, parents sent their children in skis and sequins to a huge indoor event.
And while parents who had planned massive homecoming dances in Rola, Missouri and McDonough, Georgia came under fire on social media and national news sites after their events were reported by The Daily Beast, these parties were hardly extreme.
In fact, parents across the country were doing the same.
The teens were photographed pretending to lick each other on a white, sunlit gazebo in Barnesville, Ohio. Wendy Corbyn Stephen, 55, told The Daily Beast via Facebook messages that her grandson went to Barnsville High School’s indoor dance with about 100 other teens – and that she was “glad he was able to attend.” The dance was titled “Footloose,” and social media posts from an apparently created Twitter account for the event show that tickets were $ 10 and that event organizers are asking parents to sign a waiver.
On the evening of the dance, teenagers stood in crowns and palace scarves. Dozens of classmates carried flower bouquets and wore trousers, with their faces surrounded by little rings, according to photos on Instagram that read “The Great Horizon”. Then they got inside, sweating, singing to the music and snarling with scraps of paper on the floor. None of the mothers who shared pictures of their children and themselves in the Barnesville dance responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast – via text message, Twitter DM, Facebook messenger, or otherwise – seeking their point of view or motives.
“Everyone is cut loose,” apparently one mother tweeted, alongside a picture of teenagers dancing under the twinkling lights on November 7. In the background, a large sign reads “Free”. Neither school district officials nor the principal responded to multiple requests for comments this week, but the school went into distance learning after the event. The Belmont County Health Department did not respond to multiple inquiries.
As of Friday, there were 1,987 cumulative confirmed cases in Belmont County, which has a population of about 68,472, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center. The Ohio Department of Health reported 10,114 new cases on Friday alone, the fourth highest number of daily infections since the pandemic began.
On November 7, private indoor gatherings were limited to 10 or fewer, according to an agent at the state’s COVID-19 hotline. The Twitter account visible for the Footloose event indicated that it happened at a student’s home, but The Daily Beast was unable to independently confirm this on Friday.
These parties are now an advantage, not an anomaly, in the midst of America’s pandemic.
Take, for example, an event in Spokane, Washington, in which about 50 teenagers attended a private homecoming dance inside a church on November 21 or one a week earlier, in Bloom, Pennsylvania, and then at least 150 students were asked to do so. Stay home away from school because students have tested positive for COVID-19. The cases were linked to a parental dance on November 14, in which there was no need for masks and social distancing was not maintained, she said. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
“This level of ignorance [the] District Health Director Dr. Debra Bogen said to a local CBS network that is affiliated with the public health of our community, bluntly. “The spread of the virus is the result of deliberate disregard for the state’s public health measures.”
In Bridgeport, West Virginia – where indoor gatherings are limited to 25 people under an executive order from the governor – public health authorities and a local supervisor told WVNews.com on Tuesday that at least one case of the virus has been linked this week to the homecoming dance of “Ma.” Between 100 and 200 students.
State capacity limits do not apply to weddings, and public health authorities have said they expect to follow up more cases, in a county already experiencing what it called an “incredible community spread,” according to the news site.
In Slidell, Louisiana, a mother named Reagan Abney told The Daily Beast that she had planned a private outdoor dinner – complete with COVID-19 safety precautions – for about 20 teens in her home, so they could dress up and take pictures. without The risk of moving an actual dance – like the one their classmates were attending.
My son said, “The school will not allow any kind of dancing.” “There were other parents at Slidell who had an event, but I didn’t allow my kids to participate due to the size of the crowd. From the photos there appeared to be over 100 photos.”
“We were trying to give them some memories, but this was not the case,” she added. “It was a small private gathering in my house.” The Daily Beast was unable to independently confirm that another Slidell dance took place, and Abbey did not respond to follow-up questions from The Daily Beast.
The dance in Rolla, Missouri, which was held at a steakhouse on November 7, was organized by the parents. It featured 200 students and triggered a wave of COVID-19 cases, which the local health ministry struggled to trace contact with because the parents who performed the dance did not keep a list of the students who attended.
The organizers intentionally concealed the number and identities of attendees to avoid contact tracing, according to Ashley Wan, director of health for the Phillips-Marie County Health Department.
“I sometimes wonder if the kids care as much as parents do with these dances“
– School employee
One week later, in McDonough, Georgia, parents performed a dance for 250 students at Ula High School. Hela Folden, a spokeswoman for Georgia’s Public Health Service 4, which covers Henry County, told The Daily Beast that her team has yet to link any cases to the event, but her division has had a lot of difficulty getting residents infected with the coronavirus to answer questions. Phone, answer questions, or otherwise participate in tracking contacts for the past few months. This means that she cannot conclude that the dance did not result in any cases, she told the Daily Beast.
A staff member at one of the schools on the list said: “I sometimes wonder if the children care how much parents care about these dances, or whether it is more than a photo opportunity and an opportunity for parents to live indirectly through their children” above, who asked not to disclose Their identity is in fear of being expelled for speaking to the press about COVID-19.
“Schools are working hard to ensure that they take every possible measure to prevent transmission of the virus in the school, and then parents take it upon themselves to hold these extraordinary events and undo all this good work,” she said. “It wasn’t an innocent censorship; it was a stark choice to ignore public health advice.”
The employee added: “I am disgusted and convinced that it contributed to what is happening in our society,” noting that the cases “have risen dramatically.”
One ray of hope? The end of the homecoming season had the potential to end these glamorous celebrations and their viral transmission. Unfortunately, things don’t look promising.
According to two Ola High School students interviewed by The Daily Beast last week, students at neighboring schools in Henry County are reaching out to see how they can throw parties in the coming weeks, which students have called “winter balls.”
Then, this week, a freshman at Ula High School – who requested anonymity due to fear of bullying and retaliation from her peers – provided a screenshot of The Daily Beast’s Snapchat invite to the official winter semester for students at Locust Grove High School – also in scope Folden’s specialty. Tickets for the January 23 event range from $ 25 to $ 35 and can be sent to a Venmo account called @ WINTERFORMAL2021. When The Daily Beast checked this account on Friday, several transactions had already been recorded under names such as “locust dance” and “tickets.”
J.D. Hardin, executive director of communications at Henry County School District, confirmed last week that the district was aware of the Ola High School dance, but did not respond to multiple requests for comment this week about the official winter that appears to be a blueprint for Locust Grove High School students, though The school is in the same area.
“The majority of my school doesn’t think COVID is a real thing. You better not even talk, like,” said an Ola senior student. “I was confused – why should we vote for a King and Queen back home, given what exactly is happening.”
The senior student, a student of color at a largely white school, said that she often feels isolated due to her interest in how her actions affect her family and community, and is disadvantaged because she is still learning from home while other kids are partying and attending school face to face, and she was bullied when she talks On the safety of COVID-19.
She said the students who went dancing were like, “Why do you care about what we do?” But they then returned to school after attending a massive indoor event that violated public health guidelines, potentially spreading the virus to others.
She said, “I wear my mask every time I go out and go to Walmart.” “Everyone is without masks and looking at you like you are crazy. Especially after coming home, it felt like it was worse. They sent another email saying another student on campus had the COVID virus.”
Fulden said her team will “fight today and be quick to try to prevent” the official from moving forward with the few tools they have, but that they are limited in the kind of enforcement its administration can take.
“We are back where we were,” she sighed after The Daily Beast sent her an invitation to the official winter party. “It’s like we’re spitting in the wind when we see things like this.”
In response to questions from The Daily Beast about whether anyone in the county would try to stop the event, Anthony Ford, president of the Henry County Health Board, said, “We will always encourage citizens to be safe and considerate of others when they are in the public sphere.” He said he wasn’t aware of the official winter until The Daily Beast made the invitation and Venmo transfers.
On the other hand, Fulden said, “It is baffling to think that people want to congregate, especially in large groups like this one, even when we see small groups causing the Coronavirus to spread rapidly at the present time.” She added, “It’s very frustrating.”
“Public health and healthcare workers in general are working hard at the moment to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prepare for vaccinations in the coming weeks, and we are very tired of the length of time we have been doing and how difficult it is,” said Fulden, “re-work,” noting that her daughter In high school and frustrated by all that she misses.
“But we did take the time to explain that when kids go to parties and then go and do other things, one person can infect hundreds.”