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Cody Hall’s winter break was quieter than usual. In place of his usual get-togethers with friends, he visited some family, tuned into a church live stream, and even got a family hockey game going. But the past two weeks were just the latest in a long stream of time spent social distancing and isolating.

“I feel like families should be able to be in those kinds of gatherings more than just random people,” he says of his time off. “Our family had to be split into two tables. I just don’t know really how to regulate those types of things and…I don’t know. It’s weird.”

Student Cody Hall, shown here completing a fly tie, says that the isolation of COVID-19 has been difficult for students. Courtesy photo.

Beyond his family’s distancing during the holiday break, the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccine has meant more self-imposed isolation as people prepare to get protected.

“I know a couple of my parents’ friends and peers have been self-quarantining because they’re getting the vaccine, and they just don’t want to risk getting COVID before they can get the vaccine,” he says. “There are friends of mine that haven’t gone outside in nine months, just because of COVID. We usually hang out, everybody, for winter breaks, but this one was different in that way.”

Hall, a sophomore at Lake County High School in Leadville, has seen the social and academic impacts of the pandemic firsthand. Starting this semester, he’ll be going fully virtual for school.

“Our basketball coach said that we should [go fully virtual] so that we don’t get quarantined,” he says of his upcoming semester. “I definitely think that generally, kids are learning less being online. There’s less communication between students and teachers. You have to be self-sufficient to do school, and it’s really weird. I think it could have been handled better.”

Hall has also felt separated from some of his friends who haven’t been able to socialize as much.

“I’ve definitely gotten a lot closer to a few of my friends … [those friends] have almost become way closer now but only because we can hang out and our families are okay with us hanging out as long as we’re just staying safe, just going to see one another, and minimizing exposure to everybody else,” he says. “But I’ve definitely lost contact with quite a bit of people, and that’s pretty hard. It’s hard to reconnect because their families are just not as lenient with seeing people.”

Hall wants this year to be different, especially with the vaccine rolling out. “I’m just not as excited to start a new year as I usually am, and I just wish things would go back to normal and we could just resume our normal lives,” he says.

Still, his pandemic isolation also led to more productivity. “I found myself working on more productive things when I have free time, which is a good thing, instead of just spending time on my phone during downtime from working or school or whatnot,” he explains. “I’m being more productive in the way that I’m practicing music or I’m tying flies or reading, you know? It’s just more productivity during downtime, which I kind of learned in the big lockdown that lasted a long time, how to just kind of be more self-sufficient.”

As he goes into a new year and old COVID restrictions, he says he wants to be better about reaching out to and keeping in touch with friends.

“If I had to redo 2020, I would probably make more of an effort, reach out to the friends that I’ve lost communication with over the lockdown,” he says. “[This year] I’ll probably just make sure that they’re okay, more than anything,” he explains. “I’ve had some friends that, you know, just kind of cut themselves off without even knowing because they weren’t forced to get up, get out of bed. They weren’t forced to go to school and see people. So, yeah, I’ll probably just be more considerate in making sure my friends are just doing okay.”

Whatever you’re going through, crisis counselors and professionally trained peer specialists are available to help. Call Colorado Crisis Service’s hotline at 1-844-493-TALK(8255). There is no wrong reason to reach out.