FOCO is a No-Go


Kaya Suraci, Lillian Deer, Diya Anoop, and Malavika Santhosh get ready for their first HOCO, 2018.

At the beginning of October this year, it was disappointing to see the pictures showing up on my “memories” of last year. Many of them were pictures from my Homecoming in years past. During my freshman year, I got together with some of my closest friends and we went together. This year, those pictures were the saddest to see. We were laughing together, hugging each other, and super close- no masks present. Those three girls are still my best friends, but I only see them through video calls now. But I do understand why. Cases are on the rise again in Washington State, and I have multiple at-risk people in my circle.

Ultimately, looking at the facts, whatever loneliness I may be experiencing is not enough to overlook the Coronavirus. The U.S. is reaching record infection rates every day at this point, and in King and Snohomish counties, where most BHS students live, the cases are on the rise. The CDC still recommends that gatherings be limited to 10 or fewer people, preferably 6 feet apart, outside, and with masks. With Jay Inslee’s new restrictions, outdoor gatherings are now limited to 5 people that are not within one’s household. But any casual scroll through my Instagram feed will show that these guidelines are not followed by quite a few teens. Since the beginning of quarantine, my feed has been full of people blatantly disregarding CDC guidelines and general common sense to hang out with friends. Strangely, these hangouts are even more common now in the fall than what I saw over the summer. This generally seems to be due to the rise of “FOCO”, or “fake homecoming” events. The general formula for a FOCO is a large group (usually 10+ people) dressed up and taking lots of pictures. Usually, these pictures include the friends hugging and posing while touching each other with no masks on whatsoever. This violates just about every CDC guideline put in place, as well as the Washington mask mandate that outlines that masks must be worn even “outdoors when proper physical distancing can’t be maintained”.

I personally did not hold a FOCO event and do not wish to. Many students that I reached out to agree with this. One student who wished to remain anonymous said that she has done a FOCO event but “it was a small group and we were wearing masks almost the whole time”. This student also said that she believes it is “the [expletive] stupidest thing when it’s like 20 people… not wearing masks and getting so close to each other just for the sake of a photo”. Another student, Akemi Ozoa (‘22) agrees, but has not done a FOCO event herself. She believes that “if you’re doing multiple focos with a group larger than 5 and you don’t social distance and wear a mask you are incredibly selfish and ignorant”.

Some students are in the middle. I spoke to one student, Isaac Araki (‘22), who believes that “although there is risk involved in doing a foco I do not find it to be that big of an issue… as long as they took precautions”. He says that many of the people criticizing FOCO are hypocritical, as they later post their own pictures with friends. He finds the criticism to be more “trendy” than actually out of compassion.

Then, of course, there are the students that actually held these FOCO events. I found it most difficult to get an interview from these students- most likely because of the backlash they had already faced. And while I myself do not believe these events to be safe, the students that I spoke to that held FOCO events certainly did the best they could for the situation. One student, who wishes to remain anonymous, said that she attended only one event with 11 people. While this is already against CDC guidelines, she also said that all of the students that attended were tested beforehand and wore masks when around parents who had not been tested. She said that she had fun and was happy that she “finally got to see [her] friends”. To those who disapprove she wants to know that they “should ask questions about the event before they assume they know who got tested, who didn’t, and who has regularly seen each other”. Another student says that her group also got tested beforehand but “we knew it was still a risky thing to do” she continued to say that “as long as you take the right precautions like my group did it’s fine”.

Overall, based on guidelines and restrictions put in place by Gov. Jay Inslee and the CDC, these FOCO events are in no way safe. Sure, your teenage years are precious, but I would argue to say that the 250,000+ dead people were precious as well. Risky events like these are an insult to such people. Disregard for the virus is not just being a “dumb teen” or making a “slightly risky move”. It is dangerous, it is wrong, and it is disrespectful. One of my best friends lost her grandmother to COVID-19. My grandparents have lost friends to it. To me, this blatant disregard for the safety of sensitive groups is as repulsive as the people who stand on street corners saying that the virus is fake. To the people that hold these FOCO events, I would just like to say that no matter what precautions you took, you knew it was dangerous. You set a precedent to others that this virus is no longer an issue- and clearly, it is.

Photo Caption: Kaya Suraci, Lillian Deer, Diya Anoop, and Malavika Santhosh get ready for their first HOCO, 2018.