By: Natalie J. Greene, student journalist

A virus that no one had ever seen before burst onto the scene in 2020 and spread like wildfire, seemingly destroying everything in its path. People were saying that this new killer was doing what not even the AIDS epidemic could do.

High schoolers learn in health class that HIV/AIDS, which was at one time unfairly and incorrectly deemed a “your own fault” disease, requires sexual or intimate contact, sharing needles for intravenous drug use, or some other ways of getting the virus into blood streams, which could lead to death or severe illness. But this new explosion was different. All a person had to do was walk into a crowded room, or cough someone’s way and, just like in the Stephen King novel “The Stand,” people were dropping like flies from this “super flu” they called “COVID-19” or the “coronavirus.”

We learned terms like “social distancing” as a method of survival and “isolation” became a way of life, but for students and teens who often feel they need friendships and personal contact with the “besties” to emotionally survive, they were lost and spiraling out of control.

Student athletes went from coaches preaching the importance of “team sports,” which requires contact most times, to being solo in a world where they couldn’t even stand next to each other for fear of either dying or taking germs home to their vulnerable parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles.


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Students were afraid and lost – and the internet did not make it any better.

African Americans traditionally turn to music and laughter as a coping mechanism when it comes to overcoming tough times, but the songs being sang were at funeral homegoing services for loved ones and, as for the laughter, that came with a lot of confusion, especially if you looked at Black Twitter.

COVID swept the country in a zero to 100 way, but after more than a year of waiting around for vaccines to “save us,” when they became available, the trust factor went in reverse from 100 to zero faster than a track star.

The elephant in the room was wearing Jordan sneakers, and afraid to roll up its sleeve.

Memes and videos were being posted daily, warning Blacks to not trust the government due to the haunting memories of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment, and other messages were referencing the series, “The Walking Dead,” saying taking the vaccines could turn people into zombies.

A conspiracy also went viral with people saying Will Smith’s “I Am Legend” movie was a reality of what was to come. The claims of one post, which had more than 17,000 Facebook shares, have been fact-checked and debunked. In other words, none of it was true.


To combat all the misinformation, Black doctors and leaders jumped headfirst into the mission to encourage African Americans to get the shot.


As a high school athlete, Bayou Beat News student journalist Natalie Greene sat down with peers and conducted a Q&A discussion, followed by a debunking myths education session, with information obtained through Sister 2 Sistah mentoring organization’s partnership with the Houston Health Foundation. 

First, what do students believe?

When speaking to students at various high schools in the Houston and Fort Bend Independent School Districts, many shared what they learned from their family members or inner circles. We interviewed 12 high schoolers, and some shared bizarre conspiracy theories they heard.

“COVID is a hoax, nothing more than a way for white people to make Blacks look stupid so they can continue to steal jobs and money from the government, without sharing the wealth,” said Darius W., a student at an HISD school who does not wish to share his full name.

Darius said his uncle has taught him all about COVID-19. He says it is a part of the propaganda used to dupe Black people into “getting tagged like house pets so they can secretly keep tabs on us.”

As outlandish as that may sound to some, it was very real for others.

Another student, Samantha S., said her mother told her that she should not take the vaccination because it would stop her from having children in the future. Samantha said her mother said she was told that it was a way for white people to sterilize Blacks, with the intent to eliminate the race.

Three more participants – Tarrah B., Destiny LD., and Hailey K. – gave permission to share their feedback. While these three did not have the extreme thoughts that Darius and Samantha had, they did admit they were afraid. As athletes with big dreams for the future, some thought COVID vaccines could have long-lasting effects, which could harm them physically.

Question 1: Do you believe COVID is real?

Tarrah B: Yes

Destiny LD: Yes

Hailey K: Yes, I believe it’s a more serious variant of the flu.

Question 2: What is the scariest thing you thought or heard about COVID when it first came out?

Tarrah B: I’m going to die.

Destiny LD: I thought our season would be over and I was scared for my loved ones’ health.

Hailey K: I heard people died over having it and it made me scared.

Question 3: Do you feel safe playing contact sports now since more people are vaccinated or did that make a difference to you?

Tarrah B: Yep, it’s just a flu and nothing serious now.

Destiny LD: Yes, I feel safe now.

Hailey K: Yes, I feel a lot safer knowing that people are taking action to fight off the virus.

Now that we’ve shared the fears, let’s share the facts!

What is COVID 19?

  • COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) is a respiratory virus that spreads primarily from person to person.
  • It can be transmitted by coming into close contact with someone sick – like hugging or shaking hands.
  • It can be transmitted from droplets released when someone sick sneezes or coughs, which can land on the mouths or noses of people nearby.
  • Mild to severe symptoms
  • Asymptomatic (have no visible symptoms)
  • It can mutate into many variants
  • Some variants cause breakthrough infections

What are the variants?

  1. Beta – May 2020
  2. Alpha – September 2020
  3. Delta – October 2020
  4. Gamma – November 2020
  5. Omicron – November 2021
    • Omicron variant causes less severe illness than other variants
    • Omicron BA.5 is highly transmissible
    • Omicron BA.5 can be spread to others regardless of vaccination status
    • BA.5 symptoms vary based on vaccination status

How vaccines work:

  1. A dead or weak piece of the germ is introduced to the body.
  2. This helps your body develop antibodies that recognize the germ.
  3. If the disease attacks the body, the antibodies are ready to catch and destroy them.

How do mRNA vaccines work?

A video from Johns Hopkins, Bloomberg School of Public Health, breaks it all down for us.

According to the video’s narrator, mRNA vaccines have been in development for 20 years and are now approved to prevent COVID 19. Unlike some other types of vaccines, mRNA vaccines do not contain any pieces of the virus. Instead, the COVID-19 mRNA vaccine teaches our own cells to make the “spike protein” found on the surface of the coronavirus, triggering an immune response. In short, they help our bodies produce antibodies specific to the virus, along with T cells that also confer immunity. This works by simply reproducing the same immune response that happens in a natural infection, but without actually infecting your body.

Here are some common misconceptions about this vaccine that we would like to share:

  1. This type of vaccine is new, but it is not unknown. Research and development of these vaccines have gone on for decades before this pandemic.
  2. These vaccines do not affect or interact with your DNA and the mRNA never actually enters the nucleus of the cell.
  3. While the vaccine does have some side effects, like the potential for fever and soreness, they do not infect your body with the coronavirus. Side effects after vaccination are not uncommon.
  4. YES, if you have recovered from COVID-19, you should still consider a vaccine. We still don’t know how long immunity to the virus lasts.
  5. Vaccination, along with face masks, social distancing, and hand washing is key to resume social gatherings and reopen the economy.


It’s time to get back to living, soaring and trying to accomplish our goals. Students, and student athletes, lost so much during the pandemic that they are in overdrive trying to play catchup. It is time to WORK HARD, PLAY HARDER and CONTINUE CHASING THOSE DREAMS.

Rather than trying to forget about what you’ve lost – no one can ever do that – respect what you’ve learned and use it as a driving force to do better in life, appreciating all that is provided.

COVID-19 may have won the 2020 battle, but science clearly shows that the human race will win the war. Respect the science, practice good hygiene and stay vaccinated, not only for your health, but for the health of those you love.

Want more information about the safety of vaccines? Watch the video below.