Reducing Carbon Footprint

By:Chloe Bruno

A large carbon footprint can spur the rate of climate change. A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide emitted in the atmosphere from the combustion of fossil fuels. This is a big deal because climate change affects the glaciers melting causing rising sea levels and strange weather patterns. There’s not much one regular person can do to take away the carbon footprint however an individual can start tracking and reducing their personal carbon footprint.

The strange weather patterns in the United States is the result of climate change. California is experiencing heat waves and the east is experiencing snow storms. During fall it’s strange to have weathers over 100 degrees and weather that’s cold and wet. This also impacts the ocean currents, the temperature of water which forces fishes to swim to cooler climates, and can make the water more acidic. The impacts of this can be really damaging to the environment in many ways. Although mankind cannot reverse this, they can slow it down.

There are many ways an individual can reduce their carbon footprint. There are many easy ways to do so just in one’s house. People can save energy by turning off things they don’t need like lights, water, the heater, and the air conditioner. Another way to cut down one’s carbon footprint is using one’s car less or even just taking care of the car more. An easy alternative than using a car is to ride a bike, walk to places or even use public transportation. There are also some easy things people can replace to help, for example switch to reusable bags rather than plastic bags and reusable water bottles rather than plastic bottles. 

As these climate changes get worse there are more inventions coming out to help cut down the amount of plastic the human race uses. Although they are more expensive at first, one can use them for much longer. Another way to cut down one’s carbon footprint is to cut down on the things they buy. For example when buying food at the grocery store, buy exactly the things needed or eat all the food before it spoils so one doesn’t produce waste. That also goes with don’t shop fast fashion. Buying clothes that are trendy and cheap can be very damaging overall. Instead try buying recycled clothes or 2nd hand clothes. There are easy ways to remember to help reduce one’s carbon footprint by remembering reduce, reuse and recycle.

Another way to help reduce carbon footprint is to educate others and how their carbon footprint is impacting their lifestyle whether they see it or not. Educating them on the impacts of how to reduce carbon footprint and how to track their carbon footprint. Big industries are starting to adopt this lifestyle by using recyclable materials or even recycled materials. For example, big brand names like Nike and Adidas are making shoes out of recycled products. Some other companies are using more sustainable packaging, for example packing peanuts that dissolve in water or even using paper products that are easier to recycle. 

Taking action on tracking and reducing one’s own carbon footprint can make a big difference for the earth everyone lives on. If action is not taken climate change will change the earth and it will slowly deteriorate. There will be strange occurrences of nature if climate change continues to get worse.  So reducing, reusing and recycling daily things will make a difference if everyone follows along. However, that takes action from our leaders to educate others on how to change their life habits.

Influence of School on Imposter Syndrome

By: Vivian Wang

The celebratory feeling after a successful job interview and landing an internship that is shortly accompanied with feelings of self-doubt can be perfectly encompassed into one phrase: imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome, also known as the imposter phenomenon, refers to a personal mindset and psychological pattern centered on self-doubt and questioning of one’s accomplishments. For instance, imposter syndrome is most commonly seen when an individual believes that all of their success revolves around pure luck rather than their personal strengths and capabilities.

At Valencia High School, many students experience imposter syndrome without fully realizing it. Comments such as “I only got a 95 percent on the quiz, but it was just because I was lucky and guessed” or “I feel like I should have gotten a worse grade on the test” perfectly encompass the meaning of imposter syndrome. Students at Valencia, especially International Baccalaureate students, learn in a competitive environment on a daily basis.

International Baccalaureate students naturally feel a sense of competition when surrounded by students who all equally enjoy academically-rigorous classes and earn equally high marks on tests and homework assignments. Imposter syndrome inherently makes its appearance when students begin comparing test scores and translating one another’s worth into a test score. Time and time again, high-achieving students find themselves backed into a corner, with their mind telling them that their positive results are unmerited.

The effects of imposter syndrome can directly affect one’s mental health, especially when self-doubt overshadows self-confidence and self-worth. One notable instance of imposter syndrome impacting mental health manifests in destroyed, inconsistent sleep schedules of high school students.

Students who seek perfection in their schoolwork spend their after school hours completing homework from the moment that they finish the school day to the moment that they call it a night at times as late as 3 a.m. in the morning. In such a competitive environment like the IB bubble, students inherently equate staying up later to accomplishing more tasks.

The negative feedback loop of constantly seeking perfection in all homework assignments eventually leads to burnout, so it is essential to find a balance between minimalism and perfectionism when considering academics and all homework assignments.

Almost everyone experiences imposter syndrome, so the million dollar question is “How can imposter syndrome be overcome?”, especially in this day and age where time moves so quickly and consistently maintaining a busy schedule has become the socially accepted norm. To overcome imposter syndrome, one of the steps that can be taken is to avoid comparing oneself to others, whether it be through test scores or personal accomplishments. Similarly, another approach to addressing imposter syndrome lies in learning how to take constructive criticism. Viewing constructive criticism as opportunities for self-growth allows for room for improvement, all while understanding how to set reasonable and tangible goals in the long run.

As writer Melody J. Wilding from The Muse explains in the piece “5 Different Types of Imposter Syndrome (and 5 Ways to Battle Each One)”, one of the most common forms of imposter syndrome manifests primarily in a superwoman or superman, a type of individual who always strives to excel in all areas and outcompete others. Instances of a superwoman or superman experiencing imposter syndrome include working overtime into late hours or finding freetime as an excuse for not working.

Instead of comparing test scores, transform this exhaustive energy into a positive mindset, whether it be through studying with friends together or reaching out to friends when trying to understand a concept covered in class. Celebrating a friend’s latest internship offer with a trip to eat ice cream instead of becoming jealous over their accomplishments. Recognizing one’s accomplishments and self growth through adversity transcends far beyond comparing oneself to others.

Documentary Review: The Social Dilemma

By: Inso Park 

“The Social Dilemma” is a documentary directed by Jeff Orlowski that was recently released on Netflix. The film focuses on the effects of social media in an increasingly digital world. It highlights the negative aspects of social media and how it is becoming, or already has become, a plague to our society. Orlowski explores how large social media conglomerates have successfully instilled a sense of normalcy regarding online privacy breaches that all result in the creation of an addicting experience, seemingly impossible to escape. 

Throughout “The Social Dilemma”, remorseful executives of large media companies come forward and explain that social media addictions are intentionally nurtured by the leaders of the industry. They all express how human behavior is manipulated in order for  companies to profit off of their users. Specific algorithms aim to produce infinite scrolling and notifications to keep users engaged. Not to mention how personalized pages such as the Instagram explore page, TikTok “For You” page, and etc. are all created by tracking user data. Company knowledge of private information regarding different users turns them into easy targets for advertisers. 

Within the interviews of executives lie some of the most influential developers of social media such as the creator of the like button. Despite their positive intentions, they now fear the effects of their product and where it has led society. The interviewees voice concerns regarding the foundations of our society as well as the effects of social media on users’ mental and physical health. Expert testimonies from previous employees of large companies such as Google, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest, all tell cautionary tales of social media and how much data users are unconsciously disclosing just from logging onto the platform. They all agree on how nerve wracking it is that managers of these large companies have the capability to practically control the lives of all their users. 

Although the social dilemma may not be a new concept, the documentary dives deeper into the problem by providing a scenario of a typical household in America. In the scenario, a functional suburban family faces the consequences of social media addiction and demonstrates how it affects our communication with others as well. The youngest daughter is obsessed with her online presence and received validation through social media. She learns about filters on pictures and quickly becomes unhappy with her own looks and body. The son learns about politics online and becomes an advocate for radical views. He attends a protest and has a run in with the law because of his political affiliations. The oldest daughter is the one who refuses to buy a smartphone, much less download social media. The family faces silent dinners and demonstrates how even when users are right next to each other the world of social media polarizes and isolates users. 

Despite the fact that the family in the documentary is fictional, too many users can identify with the family dynamics that were displayed. The family in the documentary exemplifies the ideas behind the limitations of social media and the scientific connection between the increase of mental illness and the usage of social media. 

In the grand scheme of things, “The Social Dilemma” serves to warn users against the dangers of social media and all of the biases that are present there. It is important to remember that although social media can be a great source of communication, users need to proceed with caution and be mindful of the invisible effects that social media holds.

Mental Health Representation in Media

By: Snehal Shinh

The issue of mental health is one that is starting to be talked about more. While awareness is great and much needed to stop the stigmatization of mental illnesses, the media tends to generalize and incorrectly portray mental health. More often than not, many mental illnesses are shown in a very negative light. This in turn impacts the way society and even mental health professionals view mental disorders. 

Most information that the average person gets on mental health comes from the media. In fact, a study done by the National Mental Health Association shows that 70 percent get their information off of television, 58 percent from newspapers, 51 percent from TV news, 34 percent from news magazines, and 25 percent from the internet. This study proves how much control the media has over public views of mental health. 

When depicting those with mental illnesses, the media falls back onto many stereotypes. Many times, those with illnesses such as schizophrenia and antisocial personality disorder, among others, are portrayed as violent. Despite studies proving that those with mental illnesses aren’t as likely to commit violent crimes, media sources continue to push the stereotype. A study done by the American Psychological Association shows that only 7.4 percent of violent crimes are directly caused by serious mental illnesses. However, a study done in 2006 gages that 60 percent of Americans believe that those with schizophrenia are more likely to act out violently. The news additionally pushes this belief, especially when reporting mass shootings. These stereotypes are also pushed onto fictional characters. An article written by Kirsten Fawcett for U.S. News on the topic quotes Don Diefenbach, chair and professor of mass communications, who has done a study showing that TV characters that are labeled with a mental illness are 10 to 20 times more likely to commit a violent crime than those in real life. 

In addition to the violent stereotype, the media tends to push the notion that those with mental illness look different. This is mainly done through a disheveled appearance or general uncleanliness in many shows or movies, making those with mental illnesses visually separate from those without. Creating this image of mental illnesses hurts those with them because they are ostracized and feel as if they need to present themselves differently to not be seen as threatening. There are a huge number of people suffering from mental illnesses who are able to take care of their physical appearance, but because of this stereotype that means they should be normal, right? 

Mentioned before, the media tends to make huge generalizations when it comes to mental illnesses, and oftentimes looking at the extremities of mental disorders. In depicting mental disorders, the media (especially TV) clumps them into the same categories with the same amount of severity, mainly depression and forms of psychosis, which is proven by Diefenbach’s studies. By using such broad labels, there is no variety in symptoms. When only describing the most severe cases of various mental illnesses, people who have the disorder may feel as if they aren’t valid because it isn’t as severe. Mental disorders are not one size fits all, there are so many different ways that they can affect the average person. Generalizing does not do the complexity of mental health justice in the media. 

Most importantly, the media neglects to acknowledge that recovery is possible. Characters in TV shows and movies do not tend to show that people can recover from these disorders, and in the cases where they do it’s temporary. This justifies a common thought that many with mental illness have which is that they cannot get better, and misinforms those that don’t know that mental illnesses aren’t permanent. Clearly, this belief is false as mental health experts say that with the help of therapy, medicine, and support groups, those experiencing mental illnesses can recover and live a healthy life. On the same subject, the media villianizes mental hospitals, depicting it as a place that does more harm than good. By doing this, many build a false image of a mental hospital and may not go there for help. 

Though the media attempts to work on humanizing people with mental disorders, media outlets have a lot of work to do to help reduce the stigmatization of mental illnesses. The stereotypes surrounding those with mental illnesses ostracizes and villianizes them. While these stigmas cannot be erased overnight, encouraging open communication on the topic and relying more on factual evidence, will break the stigma.

College Board: The Monopoly in Disguise

By: Young Kim

In hopes of standing out to colleges, students have been known to take AP (advanced placement) courses in order to bolster their resume. Students may also take other standardized testing such as the SAT (scholastic assessment test) and the PSAT (Preliminary SAT) as additional supplements. In a society where education is highly valued, these opportunities are considered extremely important to many families. Yet while education is valued as the utmost importance there is a major flaw within the American education system. A system that should be created in order to allow better opportunities for the youth is controlled by one major company: College Board. 

While College Board labels itself as a not-for-profit organization, they can only be described as a monopoly in a very lucrative industry. College Board reported that in 2019, over 2 million students took the SAT while over 1 million students took around 4 million AP tests. While these numbers may show the progression of students wanting to gain a higher education, it is impossible to not account for the millions of dollars of profit gained. Before the 2020-2021 school year, the cost of taking 1 AP course test was $94 (now $95) with the SAT costing $49 and $65 with an essay, which many colleges require in applications. According to Forbes, these prices have allowed College Board to amass over $1 billion in revenue in addition to $100 million in untaxed surplus and another $400 million invested within hedge funds. With these funds, David Coleman, the chief executive of College Board, has a salary of around $2 million a year.  

The College Board has been criticized in the past for making the prices of testing too high, allowing a distinguished advantage for the wealthy. This was evident in last year’s AP testing which was announced to be taken online. In summary, the most important tests of the year were allowed to be tested within the student homes, where there was no supervision and an almost too easy method for cheaters to get away with no work. In addition, test takers with a better internet service had the security of expecting everything to work to its fullest capabilities while those with minimal internet access had to constantly fear not being able to enter their test within the allotted time. Besides the obvious discrepancies with wealth playing a key role in the scores, many students suffered when the College Board servers crashed due to the sheer number of people who attempted to input their test. These students were crushed with not being able to turn in their tests with College Board advising them to retake again in June. While COVID-19 did make drastic changes only a few months before the tests, many were upset with College Board’s solution as well as their lack of communication. With the inherent problems following an online formatted test, families have racked up a $500 million lawsuit against the College Board. 

Students all over the nation are beginning to understand the consequences of giving the future of their college life over to a corporation that puts profits before the wellbeing of the test takers. For solutions, the College Board should either be disbanded into smaller corporations for each aspect of testing or testing should be gotten rid of entirely. With a system clearly favoring those fortunate enough to have a stable testing and learning environment, College Board has failed to uphold its moral duties of a not-for-profit organization. 

Student education should not be made into a lucrative business. It should be either equally accessible to all or taken away as a whole. There is a disconnect between the well thought out intentions of furthering an education and only giving an education to those that can afford it. The dark consequences of the education monopoly is clearly evident, but the question remains: what replaces a system that has been integrated into thousands of highschools all over the nation?

Computer Ergonomics

By: Joshua Song

As more and more people spend more and more time at their own computers, the need for a comfortable experience at one’s devices has become increasingly dire to the situations of many. From uncomfortable chairs to keyboards to desk heights, even the most trivial parts of one’s desk setup can lead to discomfort for the user in one way or another. Since some people now spend the vast majority of their awake time at their computers, the small deficiencies of different desk setups have been more noticeable to their users. Luckily, many of these can be easily fixed through a bit of research.

The most common and easily noticeable part of one’s desk setup is the chair. Now, the user does not need to buy an expensive office or gaming chair to enhance their sitting experience, although that could be a potential solution. A cheaper and simpler solution would be simply to purchase something like a seat cushion, which would help especially during long sessions of sitting down. An even cheaper solution would be to fix one’s posture, although that would certainly require a lot more work and persistence from the perspective of the user, although there would definitely also be greater long-term benefits. An alternative to sitting desks would be standing desks, but to make the transition to standing desks would not only cost a lot of money but would also take a while to get used to.

In the case an individual has a desktop computer with a separate monitor unit, or even just a normal laptop with an external monitor, a useful gadget to have would be an adjustable monitor stand. By positioning the monitor at a more comfortable height, one could reduce a lot of the strain that goes to the neck and spine. Larger monitors would also reduce the need to bend forward to see things on the monitor at a closer distance as the readability of the monitor would significantly increase.

A less common, more difficult, and likely more expensive solution would be to change the peripherals on one’s computer such as the mouse or keyboard. For computer mice, there are many options, ranging from a sculpted mouse, a  vertical mouse, and even a trackball-based mouse. Based on personal needs, one could easily acquire a mouse that fits their personal workflow. Each of these variants have suitable products from around $30 and up. For keyboards, there have been many variations on ergonomic keyboards within the market, and often have layouts and appearance that are fascinating and strange to the average user. Many variants have something called a “split-layout”, where each half of the keyboard is split and angled so that the user can have a more comfortable typing experience. The value of this could vary quite a bit for each consumer, especially considering how many ergonomic and specialized keyboards fetch quite high prices, usually in the $200-300 range. However, if resources allow, this could really be a worthwhile investment, considering how much of the time spent at the computer is spent up by typing.

This is obviously just a simple list of the potential upgrades that one could make, but there are many more, especially when accounting for bodily anatomy differences such as height and hand size, as well as medical conditions, such as RSI (Repetitive Stress Injury) and carpal tunnel syndrome. Hopefully, the reader will be able to make upgrades accordingly and to match their needs for the most comfortable computer experience.

Sleep Schedules: Learning via Zoom during Quarantine

By: Vivian Wang

Home has now become an unfortunate blend of school, work meetings, and destroyed sleep schedules. Since the stay-at-home order in March this year, home has become the epicenter of daily life. 

Sleep schedules have become severely damaged since quarantine; this shift in sleep schedules has been predominantly seen amongst high school students who now have to balance school and their mental health while being quarantined at home. Valencia High School students start their day at 7:55 in the morning and end their day before lunch at noon, with several hours of freetime available to students to attend office hours or get a head start on homework. When school and home become the same environment, learning becomes extremely difficult since students cannot switch their minds to separate their school learning environment with their home and family environment.

Although there is now extra time in the day for students to get a head start, students find themselves falling more and more behind. Students perceive the large section of their day as an opportunity to procrastinate on homework and other commitments, especially since Valencia High School students only attend their core classes three times a week due to block scheduling. “I find it harder and harder to stay on track of school. It’s gotten so hard to focus in class and so I end up having to spend time reviewing on my own time. I’m also sleeping later at night around one in the morning since I keep getting distracted on my phone after my last school video calls each day”, shared a Valencia High School student when asked about her thoughts on online learning.

Learning via Zoom during quarantine has also caused students to sleep through Zoom lectures. Staying up until 3 a.m. the night before class, students take advantage of Zoom lectures to take a quick power nap, with their cameras off and microphones muted. Students fall into a negative feedback loop since many students do not start homework until late at night which then leads to pulling all-nighters and consequently relying on caffeine to stay awake.

Back when school was in-person learning, many students were disciplined and could easily find a rhythm and routine to their daily schedule. Before the rise of COVID-19, students could separate school life and home life. Learning stayed at school while family time and self-care time stayed at home. With these two areas of life no longer being mutually exclusive, the mind finds it difficult to distinguish between school life and personal life. From early morning to late at night, students find themselves with their eyes glued to the screen, whether it be for class lectures or homework assignments. When spending several hours in front of a screen, especially before bedtime, the sleep-inducing hormones become suppressed and many people find it harder to quickly fall asleep. Sleep schedules are impacted the most when considering online learning because of the spiked amount of time spent in front of a screen. 

The solution to adjusting sleep schedules: setting personal sleep goals with five minute adjustments each day. One strategy to achieve the ideal sleep schedule is to gradually work towards the sleeping time goal each day by sleeping five minutes earlier each day. When considering this five-minute interval sleeping goal, accountability also plays a pivotal role in ensuring that the goals are realistic. Sharing sleep schedules with friends and family and setting aside enough time to prepare to call it night helps to make the idealized sleep schedule a reality.

Staying Motivated During the Quarantine

By: Joshua Song

As society has gone into lockdown and quarantine, staying motivated has become more difficult than ever before. Despite this, many students have faced very little repercussions until now since many of them have had very little tasks due to being on summer break. However, now that schools have started, students now have a variety of tasks ranging from regular schoolwork to college applications to seasonal sports practice. Consequently, motivation has been becoming more and more vital for students to maintain their productivity in order to get their tasks done in a timely manner. 

One of the most difficult things to do during this quarantine period is keeping track of things, such as what you have to get done and when you have to get them done by. An effective and easy way to keep track of things is to write one’s necessary tasks down. This can be written down anywhere: from sticky notes to a planner to the phone’s note-taking application. The tasks written down can span any range of time that users want, but using the range of either a day or a week seems to bring about the most practical results for the majority of people. Writing these down can help one organize their day and mind, while also potentially helping one free up time for leisurely activities. 

Exercise is also an extremely useful way to keep oneself mentally motivated while having the incredible side-benefit of keeping one’s physical health up. In discussions of mental health, the discussion of  physical health is often left out, but it is extremely vital to note the crucial role that exercise plays in the overall functioning and health of an individual. Various studies show how exercise helps increase blood flow in the body and reduces stress. By keeping stress levels down and body active, the likeliness of burn-out and subsequent demotivation is significantly reduced. In a similar vein, meditation and yoga are also great methods in maintaining motivation. 

Psychological wellness is also something that is often overlooked by a fair amount of people in the context of staying motivated. People often attribute a lack of motivation to one’s character, when in reality, it could be related to a large number of psychological factors. Even outside of quarantine, individuals should always seek mental help if necessary, but as people are having to stay more and more within the confines of their own home, many people’s mental health have been worsening. An easy way to deal with some of the more minor stresses in life would be to take a break and indulge in one’s hobbies and try to relax. These hobbies could include watching movies, reading books, playing games, playing an instrument, calling friends, or taking a relaxing bath. In more serious situations, it would be wise to obtain some professional help, either through a therapist of sorts or even various helplines suited for each need [ex) SAMHSA National Helpline: 1-800-662-HELP; National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255]. Many teachers and counselors at school are also quite willing to help any student out with their personal needs as well. 

Now, even with these goals, it may be difficult to actually implement them into one’s daily routine. A way to accomplish this would be to set specific amounts of time to finish certain tasks in smaller sessions. For instance, by allotting 1 hour of exercise as a goal each day, it would be easier to follow and maintain that goal in comparison to having no goal at all. This would also allow users to maximize efficiency by utilizing the flexibility of shorter time periods allotted for goals.

Whatever path individuals choose and deems appropriate for oneself, it is vitally important for one to not forget the practicality and usefulness of staying motivated and getting tasks done on time, especially when faced with larger projects, such as college applications.

****For reference:

Deslandes, Andréa et al. “Exercise and mental health: many reasons to move.” Neuropsychobiology vol. 59,4 (2009): 191-8. doi:10.1159/000223730

Wielgosz, Joseph et al. “Mindfulness Meditation and Psychopathology.” Annual review of clinical psychology vol. 15 (2019): 285-316. doi:10.1146/annurev-clinpsy-021815-093423

Stores Reopening

By: Chloe Bruno

As Covid-19 cases are starting to decrease in Orange County, stores are finally opening back up again, with some precautions of course. There were many phases of the stores reopening. The first phase was you could operate the store if it was outdoors. So many malls and stores put all their products outside in the parking lot and customers could shop outdoors. The next phase, the current phase right now, is that businesses are able to have customers indoors but only have a limited amount of customers inside. Stores must also enforce the 6 feet distance rule and face masks must be worn. Many stores are also doing temperature checks when you enter the store. It’s now pretty common for some to close earlier to sanitize the store.

Pacifc City in Huntington Beach is an example of how stores are taking precautions for covid-19. Many of the stores, for example Urban Outfitters, had a limited number of customers in the stores and there was a line outside for customers to wait to enter. At the entrance of Urban Outfitters you are greeted by an employee telling you if you can come inside and there was a table with hand sanitizer and disposable face masks for customers that forgot one as it is mandatory to wear a mask inside the store. Inside Urban Outfitters, where the sunglasses were, if a customer wanted to try one on they could and then if they didn’t want to purchase it there was a bin for already worn sunglasses so the employees could sanitize it and put it back on display. Throughout the store there were arrows on the ground so customers didn’t cross paths. There were also signs throughout the store stating to customers to stay 6 feet apart from each other. Although all these precautions are placed many employees may not enforce some of them for example the 6 feet rule but may enforce the face mask rule but won’t be very strict about it. 

Other stores at Pacifc City, for example Lush Cosmetics, are more cautious because it is a cosmetic store and they used to have samples out but not anymore. Since it’s a very small store very limited customers could come in. The employee in the front makes a run down of all precautions they are taking including taking the customers temperature and making the customer wash their hands or using hand sanitizer before shopping. The employee also made it very clear to the customers before entering to wear the face masks properly over your nose and you cannot pull down the face masks to smell the products. Lush Cosmetics closed their doors 30 minutes before what it said to clean the store but customers can still window shop if they know what they want. The employees at Lush Cosmetics were far more serious about enforcing the rules.

Even essential stores like Walmart that have been open are going to their next phases in opening. This phase consisted of removing some of the store precautions for example tracking how many customers come into the store and they removed the stickers on the floor guiding the direction of the aisle they go. However they are still enforcing the face masks rule and if a customer doesn’t want to wear a face mask they can do curbside pick up.

Although stores are opening up again they’ll need to have these precautions to ensure the safety of the employees and customers. These precautions will continue if the cases of Covid-19 continue but once the cases decrease stores will continue to open back up again and slowly go back to normal.

Eating Out during COVID

By: Snehal Shinh

Eating out has become challenging due to the current risk of COVID-19, not to mention the changes in dining now that restaurants are open. Not everyone can afford or know how to cook food themselves, so it’s understandable for many to turn to fast food or restaurants in general. Still, it is important to take precautions when ordering take out or dining in.

While there is no evidence of Coronavirus being spread through food, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), caution should still be in mind. Knowing that there’s no evidence supporting the spread of Covid through food may make it seem pointless to take precautions that may seem overboard, but remembering that there isn’t much information, other than how dangerous it is, about the virus brings reason to the actions. 

When ordering takeout, the real risk comes from the workers who are handling the food rather than the food itself. Unlike living beings, viruses cannot grow inside food, making it safe. Human contact, however, is what creates the slight risk. Limiting the amount of people the food comes in contact with can be done by not using food delivery services like DoorDash or Postmates. However, if that is not possible one can choose contactless delivery to minimize contact. To ensure that what is being consumed is safe, reheating the food at high temperatures, around 165 degrees fahrenheit or higher, will kill any virus particles. In addition to heating the food, transferring the meal onto a plate and disposing of the original container immediately is equally important. Making sure to wash hands for at least twenty seconds before transferring the meal and once again before consumption is always a good habit to make. Once done, disinfect the countertop, table, or any other area the original container may have been on.

As restaurants have all opened up, many Americans have begun to believe that it must be safe enough to dine in, however this is not the case. Mentioned before, the real risk of eating out comes from those who handle the food. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have emphasized that activities where people can’t always wear their masks nor be able to practice social distancing are high risk. These activities include eating at restaurants as masks must be completely removed to eat. 

There are many steps that need to be taken for restaurants to be safe for dining in. Out of the many recommendations stated by the CDC for restaurants, enforcing behaviors that reduce spread and a healthy environment is most important for workers. This means that employees must wear face coverings, disinfect surfaces, and have staggered work shifts, among other things.  

With restaurants doing all that they can to keep their employees and customers safe, it’s just as important for the consumers to take responsibility for their own health as well. This means calling ahead of time to find out what precautions are being taken, if they are allowing inside dining or not. As previously mentioned, ordering out is the much safer alternative to eating in a restaurant, but if dining in is the only option, then keep face masks on as much as possible and practice social distancing in any way. While these precautions will keep the public safe, the risk is not eliminated. According to Heathline, outdoor dining is the most reasonable option compared to indoor dining. With outdoor seating, making sure that tables and chairs are six feet apart is achievable. However, this is assuming that consumers will remain respectful of social distancing guidelines. 

Overall, health professionals stress the importance of adhering to social distancing guidelines and calling restaurants before dining in to be aware of their policies. In terms of take out food, both the CDC and the FDA recommend take out orders (preferably contactless) over dining in. Eating at restaurants creates much more risks due to various factors such as lack of enforcing social distance guidelines or improper mask wearing. When choosing to eat in a restaurant, look up coronavirus case statistics in the area and the measures the restaurant is taking and decide whether or not it’s worth the risk.