What is COVID-19 currently looking like in Minnesota?

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

COVID-19 better known as COVID or Corona, is a virus. According to Hopkins Medicine, COVID-19 is the disease caused by SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that emerged in December 2019. The way coronavirus is spread as of now, researchers know that the spread is through droplets and virus particles released into the air when an infected person breathes, talks, laughs, sings, coughs, or sneezes. 

The cases in Minnesota have increased due to the widely known delta variant. According to StarTribune, there are increased demands for hospitalization including a surge of newly reported infections, exceeding the state’s capacity for logging cases. 

The symptoms of COVID-19 are flu like symptoms. That includes fevers or chills, a cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. If you have any of these symptoms the CDC strongly encourages those to get tested. To learn more about COVID-19 tests, visit this website: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/symptoms-testing/testing.html.

According to Mayo Clinic, one of the ways you can help prevent the spread of COVID is wearing a mask properly. This means wearing it above your nose and having it cover both your nose and mouth.

Maintaining social distancing, getting a flu shot, if you haven’t already, washing your hands frequently, and cleaning/disinfecting surfaces are also ways to help prevent spreading COVID.

Another way to help prevent the spread is getting the COVID-19 vaccine. If you are interested in getting the vaccine, you may find this website helpful: https://www.vaccines.gov/.

I interviewed a freshman and asked them these questions: How has COVID-19 affected you personally? How has it affected your household? What precautions are you taking to prevent it? How do you feel about the vaccine?

*Note, the following are simply the freshman’s responses to my questions. They were not verified for facts.

The freshman responded saying, “It stops me from visiting my friends. I also can’t go into public spaces without a mask. It is difficult for me to focus in school because I am thinking about a huge pandemic that is spreading throughout the world rather than my learning.” 

The freshman responded to the second question saying, “It affects my daily life inside my house. It affects me by making me clean literally anything inside my house. You have to be super sanitary. Any visitors I have inside my house, also have to go through the same thing. It is just a huge pain.”

The freshman responded to the third question saying, “Hand sanitizer, mask, the alcohol wipes, eat healthy, avoid areas with a large amount of people, and try not to touch everything.”

The freshman responded to the fourth question saying, “The vaccine is actually really helpful because it helps protect you from getting the virus. And I support it because over 60% of the people in the world would be infected by it if they didn’t have the vaccine.”

Quarantine’s effect on mental health in teens

By: Mary Koch

Quarantine had overwhelming effects on everyone, especially teenagers. Spending months at home and not being able to see friends in person isn’t healthy, and teens’ mental health is an example.

Not being able to go to school in person made things more difficult, and it was harder to keep up with classes and assignments. Stress of staying on top of working and trying to understand lessons without having as easily accessible help wasn’t easy.

Things like school dances, performances, and sports were cancelled or postponed, so students ended up missing out on things they won’t have a chance to do again. Graduations and school events were socially distanced or virtual, and the overall experience wasn’t the same.

A poll taken in New York indicated that 1 in 3 girls and 1 in 5 boys, from the ages of 13 to 18, have had more severe anxiety since quarantine began.

Without the pandemic, 14.3% of teens will experience depression or bipolar disorder. Adding on the effects of quarantine over 22% of teens are meeting criteria for having one or both of those mental illnesses.

When people are suffering from depression, it’s recommended that people don’t isolate themselves, but with the lockdown, there was no other option. Kids have to stay home, they couldn’t see their friends or non-immediate family, and they had fewer activities.

Having a good steady sleep schedule can make positive changes in people’s lives. With lockdown school was done online, so students didn’t need to wake up at the same time everyday. Instead of going to bed and getting a good night’s sleep, they stayed up doing homework, watching TV, and going on their phones.

Lockdown also strained relationships with friends, and many teens came out with fewer than they had when the lockdown started. With fewer friends and less of a support system, people’s mental health will decline.

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TBIs: effects, stats, and treatments

By: Mila Hart and Liv Miller

TBI stands for traumatic brain injury. The American Association of Neurological Surgeons defines a traumatic brain injury as “A disruption in the normal function of the brain that can be caused by a blow, bump or jolt to the head, the head suddenly and violently hitting an object or when an object pierces the skull and enters brain tissue”. 

The four main types of TBIs include: concussions, contusions, penetrating injuries, and anoxic brain injuries.

  • Concussions are mild traumatic brain injuries and are caused by a blow to the head.
  • Contusions are slightly more severe then concussions. Contusions are a bruise to the brain that causes bleeding and swelling inside of the brain.
  • A penetrating brain injury is when an object penetrates the skull and hurts the brain.
  • Anoxic brain injuries are the most severe TBIs. They are caused by a complete lack of oxygen to the brain. Anoxic brain injuries are often fatal.

To learn more about the four main types of TBIs visit Dolmanlaw.com.

The symptoms that follow a traumatic brain injury can be mild, moderate, or severe, depending on the extent of the injury. There are a wide variety of effects and symptoms that people who have suffered a TBI may experience. Some symptoms include vomiting, headache, dizziness and balance concerns, breathing problems, confusion, ect., and that is just the beginning.

Although some of these symptoms can be short term and get less severe over time, there is a good chance that someone can experience many long term effects after suffering a traumatic brain injury. These include loss of memory (amnesia), focal neurological deficits such as muscle weakness, loss of vision, change in speech, ect., and an overall weakened mental state.

If someone were to experience a more serious traumatic brain injury, or multiple ones over a short period of time, they might be more likely to go into a vegetative state or even die. The long term effect can get even worse if you experience multiple TBIs. Psychology Today says that if you have suffered three or more concussions you are more likely to have long-term cognitive impairment and emotional struggles. Multiple concussions can cause depression, anger, and memory loss. To learn more about the symptoms for a TBI visit the CDCs website.

It is estimated that around 1.6 to 3.8 million sports related traumatic brain injuries occur every year, and recreational activities contribute to about 21 percent of all TBIs among American children and adolescents. The reason why sports often contribute to traumatic brain injuries is because more aggressive sports, like football, soccer, rugby, lacrosse, etc. involve a lot of person to person contact often resulting in blows to the head.

There also may be a high underestimate of traumatic brain injuries reported due to many people failing to seek medical help after sustaining their injury. Many people, especially adolescents, are likely to assume they have just a mild concussion and fail to go to the doctor. This is not good because it can result in their condition getting worse, and put them at a higher risk of sustaining serious long term injuries.

There are several ways to treat a TBI. Some include rest, medication, and surgery. The treatment will vary depending on how severe the injury is. The medication often used to treat a TBI is called Diuretic. Diuretic helps remove all extra water from the body and treats high blood pressure.

The type of surgery needed to treat a severe TBI is called a decompressive craniectomy. This surgery removes part of the skull so that an injured brain can swell without being squeezed.

Although these are very effective treatments, there is still a likely possibility a patient can end up paralyzed or dead. So, it is very important to seek help right away if you were to sustain a TBI. No matter how serious it seems at the moment it is better to be safe than sorry.

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Seasonal holidays

By: Fatima Mohamud and Sumaya Noor

Which holidays are celebrated this season?

In the months of November, December, and January, many celebrations and festivals are celebrated throughout several cultures and religions. Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Diwali are some of the notable holidays in these festive months.

Who celebrates these holidays?

Christmas is celebrated by Christians of all backgrounds. The holiday is one of the biggest celebrations across the globe, with over 2 billion believers indulging in the festival. It’s from December 24 to December 25, and consists of celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, sharing gifts, and spending time with family and friends. Decorations and festive treats are very popular during Christmas.

Kwanzaa is a tradition that honors African heritage and African culture and is viewed by Africans and African Americans. Kwanzaa isn’t a religious holiday but more of a cultural one as there is no religion tied to it. Celebrated for a week from December 26 to January 1, the holiday brings people together and shares gifts. Kwanzaa first became a holiday less than 60 years ago.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival observed by Jews across the world. Hanukkah celebrates the recovery of Jerusalem. Although not the holiest holiday observed by Jews, (the holiest is Yom Kippur) it’s still very significant and is from November 28 to December 6 this year. During Hanukkah, Jews read the Torah and scriptures, recite the Psalms, light the Hanukkiah/menorah and bless themselves.

What are some other holidays observed during the festive times?

Diwali is a festivity that celebrates the light and its power over the dark. It is celebrated by Hindus and Buddhists. To honor the light, people light candles and oil lamps while praying for their wellbeing. The festival goes on for 5 days, starting on November 4 and ending November 9 this year. On the night of Diwali, many Hindus pray to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and pride, and Ganesh the god of good luck and wisdom towards the coming year.

Many people who are not Hindu or Buddhists also take part in this holiday. In the days coming before Diwali, many people exchange gifts, foods and hang up decorations just like for other holidays. In north India, many people host parties late at night with cultural food, drinks and lots of games such as gambling, it’s an ongoing tradition for many. Although this is not a requirement, many people do so to get together to celebrate.

New Year’s Eve is a celebration for people all over the world. It doesn’t follow a specific religion or belief, only to those who feel like celebrating the coming year. Lots of people buy decorations such as the last two numbers of the incoming year and throw lots of parties that night.

In New York, every year at Times Square there is a very iconic late night show that hosts singing, performances, and games before the clock hits midnight. This tradition has been going for many years and lots of people stay up to watch or go in person if they have the chance.

Thousands of people come up with New Year’s Resolutions to set a goal or plan to overcome. It’s a great way to have something to look forward to.

Thanksgiving is a mostly American national holiday celebrated by most people of color, religion, or beliefs. It falls on November 25th and it’s not long before winter starts. This holiday consists of spending time with loved ones, family and friends to show appreciation and kindness. Others have big feats or harvests to celebrate the day and prepare for it nights before. People get together to enjoy turkey, a very common food that is usually eaten at this time of year where the animal is most popular before it migrates to the south.

During this holiday flights can get very expensive and traffic will become more common because of people wanting to go visit family or friends to enjoy the holiday.

Effects of nicotine on the brain

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

Nicotine is an addictive substance that can alter your mind and actions. It can also cause permanent brain damage. According to Drug Watch, “Nicotine can disrupt the part of the brain that controls attention, learning, moods and impulse control. People under the age of 25 are also more susceptible to becoming addicted to nicotine before the brain fully develops.” 

With nicotine, there are both short and long term effects. 

The short term effects are a reduced sense of taste and smell, bad breath, a decrease in energy, withdrawals, and fatigue. 

The long term effects and risks are the addiction aspect of it; it can lead to mood disorders, respiratory issues, lower life expectancy, and it permanently lowers your impulse control.

There are also effects of second-hand smoking. It can affect the health and well-being of anyone that’s exposed to it. According to Quebec Advice and Prevention, “These people are at high risk of developing health issues such as: heart problems, respiratory or lung problems, such as asthma or excessive coughing, and lung cancer.” Second hand smoke is one of the most dangerous environments to be around. To learn more about “The Effects of Smoking and Second-Hand Smoke” visit the website below.

I asked a freshman, a junior, and a senior these questions about nicotine and vaping. Have you ever vaped, and why did or didn’t you do it? What do you know about the effects of nicotine on the brain? If given the opportunity, would you wanna learn more about the effects of nicotine?

The freshman responded to the first question saying, “I have not vaped because I know it’s bad for me and I am not stupid.”

The second question they responded saying, “Doesn’t it have withdrawal-like symptoms? It also disrupts your attention span I have heard. Maybe you really want something and that could affect your brain the same way when you want nicotine.”

The third question they responded with, “Yes.”

The junior responded to the first question saying, “I have vaped before and I did it because I thought it would help my mental illness. But it ended up with me being addicted.”

The second question they responded saying, “I’ve first hand experience with withdrawal symptoms and let me tell you… it is not fun.”

The third question they responded with, “Yes, I would be open to learning more about how it was affecting my brain.”

The senior responded to the first question saying, “Yes, I have due to curiosity and peer pressure.”

The second question they responded saying, “Little to none.”

The third question they responded saying, “Oh for sure.”

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How does the Pfizer vaccine work?

By: Sarah VonBerge

Pfizer is 1 of 3 COVID-19 vaccines currently available in the United States. The ones currently available are Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson.

Pfizer and Moderna are both Messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccines, meaning they recognize proteins and help our body learn how to fight an illness so we don’t feel the serious symptoms. This type of RNA does not stay in the body for long, but it helps the body remember how to deal with illnesses.

These vaccines do not release a live virus, but instead a harmless protein called a spike protein, which sits on the surface of the COVID-19 virus. These spike proteins are then displayed on the cells.

When the immune system realizes that that protein is not supposed to be there, the body begins to fight it as if there is an infection even though there is no danger, which is why people may feel sick after they get a vaccine.

Even though the spike protein sits on the cell, it never goes into the nucleus, which is where DNA is kept. Because it doesn’t get into the nucleus, it does not alter DNA in any way even though this is a popular belief.

Just because the spike protein eventually leaves the body, the body doesn’t forget it. Our immune system will continue to remember it, so if the same protein were to come into the body again, it knows how to fight it.

Many are hesitant to get a COVID vaccine because they don’t believe that mRNA vaccines have enough research when, in reality, they have been tested and developed for decades, but only recently became available to the public. They have been studied for the flu, Zika, rabies, cytomegalovirus (CMV), and even cancer.

To trigger an immune response, many vaccines put a weakened or inactivated germ in our body, whereas mRNA vaccines do not. This immune response is what causes our bodies to release antibodies and fight an illness. Although mRNA vaccines can not prevent an illness, they do help our bodies know how to fight an illness and help us not feel the serious symptoms, if any symptoms at all.

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How does social media affect the way people view COVID-19?

By Ella Sutherland

Fear is a big component of COVID and social media. There is a lot of different, wrong, exaggerated, and misleading information on social media apps.

The main social media apps that became a source of that information were Twitter and TikTok. Both of the apps allow anyone to post anything on them, and a lot of the information is false. On TikTok you can make short videos, and it is mostly Gen Z. On Twitter you can make short messages called “tweets”.

Before COVID was super well known there were a lot of accusations about what COVID really was. When there was wrong information out there, it scared a lot of people, and the reason for that was that we didn’t have a lot of information from real scientists.

Social media also helped influence people in different ways on how to handle the coronavirus. Lots of people looked to popular influencers on how to handle the whole situation. Many influencers were not doing a good job of staying safe and even with them knowing that they have a big fan base that looks to them for guidance, they didn’t really seem to care. They were still going to parties and going out to eat at busy restaurants, while some of them still weren’t wearing masks.

When the COVID vaccine came out I’m guessing many of them got it, but they didn’t make that clear. However, there were a few influencers that were promoting the vaccine and making it crystal clear that they were all for it and had gotten it. Many celebrities were promoting and talking about the vaccines and masks a lot more than influencers were, which definitely increased the amount of people getting vaccines and wearing their masks. Many politicians also joined celebrities in spreading the word about masks and vaccines.

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How do humpback whales communicate with each other?

By: Sarah VonBerge

Humpback whales are very independent creatures and normally only stay with their mothers for about a year, whereas a lot of other species of whales stay in groups, called pods.

At most, humpbacks normally travel in groups of 3, even though they don’t normally stay that way. They may help a couple other whales hunt or get somewhere, but they only stay with the other whales for a few days at most.

Most known for their shrieks, humpback whales also communicate via grunts and groans and are often called ‘inveterate composers’ because they make noises that can sound like music made by humans.

According to Victoriawhalewatching.com, humpback whales have multiple different kinds of communication techniques and each technique can mean something different. As stated before, they are sometimes called ‘inveterate composers’ because of their songs, which can last up to 30 minutes and travel 100 miles. The songs are believed to be mostly for mating purposes. These songs are mostly sung by the male humpbacks to attract females but also used to let other males whales know that that is their territory.

Although they sing, shriek, groan and more, they are most known for their physical communication. This communication involves spyhopping, lobtailing and breaching. Spyhopping is when a whale sticks most of its head out of the water and either leaves its eye right below the water or right above it for an extended amount of time. Although it is not completely known why they do this, it is suspected that they do it to watch their surroundings.

Another physical communication that they use is lobtailing. This is when a whale lifts its flippers or tail out of the water and slaps it on the water surface making a loud noise. This is known to show aggression but also warn other whales nearby that there is a danger.

Lastly, there’s breaching. Breaching is when a humpback whale lunges itself out of the water, exposing at least 40% of its body. Again, this is believed to be a warning to other whales but it is also suspected that they do this to show dominance.

Even though most physical whale communication is used to show aggression, it can also be used in nurturing ways. Humpback whales sometimes put their fins against each other to show affection and compassion.

Although humans’ understanding of whale communication is limited, it’s interesting to look into how they react to themselves, to their surroundings, and to each other. Whale communication is one of the most complicated and sophisticated forms of communication known.

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How does the media impact the way we look at dictatorships?

By: Grace Blumer-Lamotte

The media’s impact on dictatorships can be both positive and negative.

Dictatorship is “government by a dictator.”

According to the Open Society Foundation, “For years, policymakers and pundits alike have predicted that dictatorships will collapse under the power of the internet and social media.” This has a negative impact. The word collapsing normally is used in situations where things are not going well. The internet is uncontrolled and is typically not monitored. Many things are said on the internet that aren’t ever said in person.

Facebook is another social media platform that has impacted the elections. According to ‘The Atlanta,’ “The potential for Facebook to have an impact on an election was clear for at least half a decade.” Research from Rebecca Rosen’s 2012 story, “Did Facebook Give Democrats the Upper Hand?” showed that, “a small design change by Facebook could have electoral repercussions, especially with America’s electoral-college format in which a few hotly contested states have a disproportionate impact on the national outcome.” On Facebook there is a clear pro-liberal and pro-republican effect implied. This shows based on how many “campaign staffers, reporters, and academics viewed social media.”

The different layers all play a role in the media’s impact overall, the application layer especially. Given the ability to share information can impact the way people look at dictatorships.

According to the National Interest, “Most governments are resistant to change when compared to protest movements, which are nimble, experimental and led by younger voices. Dictatorships often lack ways to understand public opinion.”

I gathered opinions from students. I asked the question: “How has the media impacted your view on the elections in the past?”

A freshman said, “I don’t really keep up with politics. It is a very controversial topic that could end really bad fast.”

A senior said, “I normally follow the person I want to win. I keep up with what they’re saying and doing. I may not be able to vote but I can help persuade the adults in my life to vote.”

A perspective on Highlands response to COVID-19

By: Musab Mohamud

A growing concern among Highland Park students is that the reopening of schools may spike COVID. Conversely, many students are excited to return to friends, teachers, and sports. A quote taken from one student, who is conflicted about both, reads “It’s better for learning, but not peoples health.” Released from the confines of quarantine, students are more likely to contract COVID evidenced by the spike of cases that has been surging since July.

However, Highland Park’s response to COVID has been exceedingly positive with no outbreaks or school closures. This is in part due to the school’s insistence on a mask mandate and teachers giving gentle reminders to students.

Students are pleasantly surprised with their peers following mask rules and being courteous with sanitation.

Lunchrooms might however pose a problem with students being seated in close quarters with their masks down. However, with the implementation of contract tracing and scanning where students sit in the cafeteria, I believe, that Highland is being responsible for their students.

Many students fear that their sudden reintegration into a school environment will affect their grades negatively. A quote that shows this is: “I think Highland has had a fair response to COVID, my teachers should definitely assign less work though.” This sentiment is shared by many students whose grades continue to falter.

However, on the opposite side of the spectrum there are multiple students who I’ve interviewed who believe that seeing their teachers will help academically. A quote by one of those individuals goes: “I like it more because we can experience real life learning again, it’s more efficient.”

Overall, most students share the belief that Highland has shown competence in their dealings with reopening. Some may have apprehension and fear about going back, but the feeling is overwhelmingly positive.