Odessa, Part 3: The Band Bus Quarantine

annie brown I was actually wondering if you would show me around your room a little bit. vianey cepeda There’s, like, a mess, lite...


annie brown

I was actually wondering if you would show me around your room a little bit.

vianey cepeda

There’s, like, a mess, literally. [LAUGHS]

annie brown

It doesn’t have to be clean. My room is also not clean.

vianey cepeda

Yeah, it’s fine. [LAUGHS]

annie brown

OK, OK, OK.

[music]
vianey cepeda

OK, cool. There’s my bed. That’s where I do my makeup and whatever. That’s it. That’s my room.

annie brown

You’re like, you can look at the ceiling. I’m not showing you the floor. [LAUGHS]

annie brown

As a messy person myself, I will not describe for you the state of Vianey Cepeda’s room on this particular day or whether or not her bed was made.

vianey cepeda

Right there is a picture of the whole band from my sophomore year.

annie brown

But I can say that on her walls are some very beloved photographs.

vianey cepeda

Over here is a picture of my quince. It was on my [INAUDIBLE] and my [INAUDIBLE].

annie brown

And above her bed is a favorite photo from her quinceañera.

vianey cepeda

I love it so much. [CHUCKLES]

annie brown

In the photo, she’s wearing a poofy, white dress with a tiara on top of her long, curly hair. And in her hands, she’s holding a mellophone, the marching-band version of a French horn.

vianey cepeda

I wanted to incorporate band because a lot of girls incorporate their sports and what they do. My cousin did softball. I did band.

annie brown

Vianey’s love for the Odessa High School marching band began her freshman year. And by her senior year, she had risen to the highest position in the band.

annie brown

What does that mean, the head drum major?

vianey cepeda

I’m the one that stands in the middle of the big podium that conducts. Everybody watches me.

annie brown

And what she loves about this position goes beyond conducting.

vianey cepeda

It’s pretty cool because you get to get along with the whole band. You’re not just in one section. You talk with everybody. Band is just a family. I have so much love for everyone. It’s just — [LAUGHS]

annie brown

You’re very proud.

vianey cepeda

Yeah.

annie brown

But this year, Covid had changed all of that for Vianey. And it wasn’t just that the band had had to dramatically scale back their season with just four football games to play at. Something else had happened, something that would reveal the way that this virus can tear apart not just the fabric of people’s lives, but their relationships, too.

vianey cepeda

Those were my friends. And it’s really sad because I caused them so much hate for no reason that I couldn’t really prevent. It really did hurt me.

annie brown

It all began on the day of the third football game, the biggest football game of the year — the rivalry game between Odessa High School and their crosstown rivals, the Permian Panthers. Vianey and the rest of the team had been preparing for this game for weeks. But on the morning of that game, Vianey woke up with a headache.

[music]
vianey cepeda

So I had a normal headache in the morning. I was just like, oh, OK. It’s probably my stress because it’s the rivalry game and the biggest game of our season. So I didn’t think anything of it. And throughout the day, it kept on going. And I was like, it’s OK. I drank some medicine.

annie brown

Vianey went about her day as she normally would. And when school let out, she put on a fresh face of makeup and her special drum-major uniform to meet up with the rest of the band. And then, with her headache still lingering in the background, she got on the bus full of other band members and headed out to the game.

From The New York Times, I’m Annie Brown. This is Odessa. Back in August, when we first began following Odessa High School’s experiment in reopening in person, much of the district’s focus was on trying to prevent the students in the already-struggling school system from falling further behind. But that was before. Two months into the school year, a Covid spike hit the city.

Today, in part three, as Covid spreads, tensions grow in Odessa.

Long before the Covid numbers started to climb at Odessa High, the plan for fending off the virus at the massive 4,000-student school centered around the school’s two nurses.

annie brown

Good morning, Marissa.

marissa molina

Good morning. How are you?

annie brown

Good. How are you?

marissa molina

Good. Running a little late. I apologize. [CHUCKLES]

annie brown

On a Tuesday morning, one of them, Marissa Molina, signed into a Google Hangout in the school’s parking lot to let us follow her into work for the day.

annie brown

Cute mask.

marissa molina

Yeah, thank you. [CHUCKLES]

annie brown

Is that cheetah print?

marissa molina

Yes, I think so.

annie brown

Cool.

marissa molina

I just throw it on. I don’t even know what it is. [CHUCKLING]

annie brown

Classic Covid banter.

[music]
annie brown

OK. Let’s go in.

marissa molina

All right. So things are ready to go. Perfect.

annie brown

As Marissa leads us down the main hallway of the school towards the nurse’s office, every step she takes makes the ice in her water clink against her cup. [BELL RINGS] When the bell rings, and the students start trickling into the hallways, Marissa can’t help herself. And she springs into action.

marissa molina

Put your mask on, please. Thank you. See, there’s, like, one in a bunch that doesn’t have their mask on. That was a handshake. You don’t want to handshake in front of the nurse. [LAUGHS]

speaker

That was too.

marissa molina

Here’s the nurse’s office.

annie brown

Marissa pushes through a clear shower curtain, which the nurses have installed instead of a door so they can talk to students without actually letting them in the office.

marissa molina

We don’t even normally let anyone through the curtain unless they are sick. And they come straight through and go into our isolation rooms.

annie brown

Could we go say hi to Jamie? I feel like we haven’t actually —

marissa molina

Yeah, for sure. OK. They want to talk to you and say hi to you.

jamie newman

I’m busy. Just kidding.

marissa molina

[LAUGHS]

annie brown

This is the other school nurse at O.H.S., Jamie Newman.

jamie newman

Hello. Yes. Hello.

annie brown

How are you doing, Jamie? How has the morning been?

jamie newman

It’s been all right. It’s OK.

annie brown

Jamie has got red hair and freckles, and she’s wearing scrubs. She’s been here for a few hours already.

jamie newman

Marissa gets here later than I do. We usually — I’m early. She’s late. And then I leave early, and she stays late.

annie brown

Both women are juggling school nursing with raising young children. And they chose this job because they love working with kids. Marissa used to work in the NICU, and Jamie is passionate about sex education. How much time do you have for sex ed this year with Covid?

jamie newman

Well, we basically just approach it as, don’t touch her. Don’t touch him. That’s basically it at the moment. It’s all we have time for.

annie brown

I suppose pregnancy prevention is just social distance.

jamie newman

Yes, both with Covid and with pregnancy prevention.

marissa molina

Everything else we were doing as nurses has been put on the back burner this year. [LAUGHS]

annie brown

Now Jamie and Marissa are almost singularly focused on tracking down Covid cases on campus to try and manage the spread.

[music]
annie brown

And they do that through the many-stepped process that is contact tracing during a pandemic, something neither of them had ever done before this year.

marissa molina

[SPEAKING SPANISH] Hello.

annie brown

So every time a case lands on their desk —

jamie newman

I would say, my name is Jamie. I’m one of the nurses at Odessa High School —

marissa molina

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

jamie newman

— and I received an email from your student’s corral that stated that they had tested positive for Covid.

marissa molina

[SPEAKING SPANISH]

jamie newman

And then I would go through the dates and the last time the student was on campus.

marissa molina

Does she come to campus every day, or is she hybrid? Every day. So she’s been daily.

speaker

Yeah.

marissa molina

OK.

annie brown

Their job is to keep that positive case from coming back to campus and to figure out who they may have exposed when they were there. So they’ll ask —

jamie newman

Were you within 6 feet for 15 total minutes in one day, any day, while you were on campus? And if so, who? And then, hopefully, they have names. Sometimes it takes a little investigating to get names out. So I would assure you that I’m not going to say your name. I have to call these kids and let them know they’re exposed, but they are not going to know it’s you from me.

annie brown

So a lot of this is based on, you have to really rely on the kids telling you who they have exposed.

jamie newman

Yeah, there’s definitely a window where we don’t have eyes. And there’s just literally nothing we can do about that, in that regard. And that’s unfortunate.

annie brown

This process is tedious, and it takes a lot of time. But at least, in the beginning, the nurses felt like they had a handle on things.

marissa molina

I would say the first — up until maybe October, the first few months were very, very well-structured. We had a control on any cases or symptoms. We could isolate easy. We could contact-trace easily.

jamie newman

I felt like we were prepared. We just didn’t realize that we were not very prepared for how it was going to play out in the long run.

annie brown

By the middle of October, for the first time since the summer spike, the number of hospitalizations in Odessa started to steeply rise again. And the numbers at the school were going up.

jamie newman

You know, the contact tracing is just so much that it’s really hard to keep track of now.

marissa molina

We’ve been a few days behind.

jamie newman

Mm-hmm.

marissa molina

And I think that’s when we realized, whoa, we’re losing grip on this.

[music]
naomi fuentes

Covid notification from 10/13/2020. Dear Odessa High School team members, I am sending you this message to let you know that two students here at Odessa High School have tested positive for Covid-19.

annie brown

Around the same time, the teacher we’ve been following at Odessa High School, Naomi Fuentes, is also noticing the uptick in cases.

naomi fuentes

I am sending you this message to let you know that a student here at Odessa High School has tested positive for Covid-19. I’m sending you this message to let you know that three students here at Odessa High School have tested positive for Covid-19.

annie brown

And as she got more and more of those emails —

naomi fuentes

It’s already too late. It’s here. People are already passing it. So they’re just going to come back because they don’t know they have it yet. They’re not showing symptoms yet. So it’s never going to end.

annie brown

There was a noticeable change in the tenor of the audio recordings she was sending us.

naomi fuentes

Miss Jiminez, she’s out. She’s in quarantine because she took her dad to the doctor. He had a fever. Well, he tested positive, so she has to be out for the 14 days. But the sad thing is, her dad was just admitted to the hospital, I believe, yesterday. There’s another teacher who’s in the hospital for Covid, and she doesn’t look good. They had to go get her from the auditorium because she showed up to school, and she looks like crap. That’s the one who’s in the hospital now for Covid. I don’t feel safe anymore. I kind of had that false sense of security. But now it’s going away.

annie brown

But at this point in the school year, the learning crisis was also intensifying, and the superintendent had recently announced that the district was moving forward with their plan to bring more students onto campus five days a week.

naomi fuentes

I don’t think we’re ready for that. I don’t think it’s safe enough yet. I really don’t. Hell, our principal tested positive, so how are we safe enough to bring everyone five days a week?

annie brown

The district was also watching the rise in Covid cases, but it was confident that their precautionary measures made it safe enough to bring more kids on campus. Still, it scared Naomi.

naomi fuentes

And I want to see them. I want to see them five days a week. Our pace will pick up. We’ll get more done. I’ll get to know them better. But I don’t think it’s safe. [SIGHS] I just don’t think it’s safe. We’ll see what happens.

annie brown

All of this was the backdrop when, a few weeks later, in early November, the Odessa High School marching band and their drum major, fighting back a headache, climbed onto the bus to go to the biggest football game of the season — the rivalry game against the Permian Panthers — a night that would spark the largest quarantine of the semester.

The sun had just set as Vianey’s bus made its way across town to Ratliff Stadium on the night of the crosstown rivalry game.

[music]
vianey cepeda

It was, like, 20 people on our bus because we have, like, 12 French horns and then, like, six saxophones. I always sit in the front because I don’t like sitting in the back or the middle or anything. So I always get the front seat. And then there’s always the band mom that sits right next to me. And she always talks to me. I would always make conversation with them. And then halfway through, somebody was like, let’s play Among Us.

annie brown

What did you play?

vianey cepeda

Among Us. Among Us. I guess you can say that.

annie brown

How does it go?

vianey cepeda

It’s that one where it’s the imposter, and you have to figure out who the imposter is. No? [CHUCKLES]

annie brown

Oh, oh. That’s a game you played on the bus.

vianey cepeda

Yeah.

annie brown

For some reason, I thought Among Us was the jazz musician Charles Mingus. Anyway.

vianey cepeda

Everybody was by their — in their seats with their instrument — everything.

annie brown

Got you. And how about masks?

vianey cepeda

Mask? It’s those neck gaiters that would slip off easily. I did wear my mask on and off. But I would drink water and just have it right here. I know that’s bad. But I just — you know what I mean? You have a little break.

annie brown

Yeah. You put it under your nose.

vianey cepeda

Yeah. So —

[whistle blowing]
[marching band playing]
[cheering and applause]
annie brown

When the band got to the game, they took their place in the stands ahead of their halftime performance.

And when it was time, Vianey led the way out ahead of the rest of the band, strutting down the 50-yard line and climbed up her podium to face the rest of the team.

speaker

Vianey Cepeda [INAUDIBLE] —

annie brown

She raised her hands in the air, her whistle at ready in her mouth. And on her cue, the Odessa High School marching band began to perform for the second time that season.

[marching band playing]

And like always, Vianey lost herself in the performance.

vianey cepeda

Everything goes away in my mind. I don’t know how to explain it. Whenever it’s the games, I didn’t feel like Covid was around. Games are normally fun and everything. And I didn’t really focus on Covid.

annie brown

Right. It was a moment where life was kind of normal.

vianey cepeda

Yes.

annie brown

Right.

annie brown

But of course, Covid was around. In fact, that very night, just minutes before the game kicked off, the superintendent had announced to the district staff that the Covid numbers in the community had gotten too high, and they would have to pause their plan to bring more students on campus five days a week — the plan that had been giving Naomi Fuentes so much anxiety.

It was an acknowledgment that in the constant tug of war between the public-health crisis and the learning crisis, the virus had won this one.

But Vianey had no idea that any of this was happening. And after the game ended, as she headed back to the bus, what she had on her mind was grabbing food with other members of the band.

vianey cepeda

I got on the bus. Nobody on the French horn section wanted to go out. They had other plans too, or their parents didn’t let them. So I decided to text my friend to go get food with me. And he was like, no, I can’t. I’ll tell you once you get home. And I was like, why can’t you? He was like, no, I can’t. So I was like, OK, I’ll just go get food and go home.

annie brown

So when the bus arrives back on campus, Vianey gets in her car and heads to Wingstop.

vianey cepeda

And then I FaceTime him at the drive-through. I was like, OK, what do you want? He’s like, I don’t want anything. I need to tell you something. And I was like, tell me. And he was like, I tested positive. And I was like, why didn’t you tell me that you tested positive? Because I was with him that week, and we spent a lot of time together. And I was like, you should have told me so I would have gone to get tested. So the next morning, I told my mom. And I was like, should I go get tested? She was like, yeah, of course you should go get tested. I go get tested, and I test positive. And I’m like, crap.

marissa molina

Hi. This is Marissa, the school nurse from O.H.S., and I was needing to get some more information regarding their exposures and positive cases. If you can give me a call —

annie brown

The following Monday, Marissa was contact-tracing what seemed like a typical positive student case.

marissa molina

Of course, this person notified her teachers, who notified me. And that’s how I found out she was positive. And then we find out this person was in band at the game, rode the bus to the game on Friday night. So then at that point, that’s when I started notifying my administrators. OK, this is bigger than we thought. This person was actually on a bus.

annie brown

This actually wasn’t Vianey. It was another member of the band. And it wasn’t until the next day, while Marissa was trying to track down who else had been on that bus, that she overheard Jamie contact-tracing a separate case.

marissa molina

I remember her saying something about “bus.” And I turned around. And I’m like, mine was on a bus, too, you know what I mean? And we were like, oh, crap.

jamie newman

Is it too much to hope that they were on the same bus?

marissa molina

Right. Right.

annie brown

They were not on the same bus. And the second case was Vianey. Two separate cases on two separate buses from the night of the rivalry game.

marissa molina

Oh, crap. Now we need to find out which buses, who was on the bus. We talked to a couple of students, and we couldn’t get a clear picture of, how far apart were they? Were they all wearing masks? Students get on the bus. They start socializing. Maybe they even take off their mask. I don’t know. We’re not there, so we can’t say for sure, who were you with? Were you wearing your mask? Were you 6 feet apart? We can’t narrow it down, so we’ve got to do the whole bus.

annie brown

And so the nurses got to work quarantining over 40 members of the band. They had determined that Vianey had exposed a whole group of horns and saxophones on her bus, and the other positive student had exposed a whole bus full of clarinet players. And all of them would have to sit out for the next 14 days. And because the fourth and final game was just two weeks away, it meant that they would miss their last game — a game everyone called senior night because it celebrated the students who wouldn’t be coming back next year.

adison abalos

I was upset, because it was going to be my last game. And there’s no more after that because it’s my last year. And I waited for so long for senior year.

annie brown

One of the students that was quarantined was a senior clarinet player named Adison Abalos.

adison abalos

This last football game really meant everything to me.

annie brown

Every year, senior night is a big deal. But in a year where seniors have had so many things taken away, it took on even more significance for students like Adison.

adison abalos

This game was really important because I was going to get recognized, and I was going to have my mom and dad there. And I get to look at my mom and see her smile. And I was going to get to hand my mom this beautiful rose. [SNIFFLES] I’m sorry.

I knew it was over. There was nothing I could do. And then [CHUCKLES] my mom — she argued with them and fought her way through it because they were trying to take away my senior year — my senior night.

[music]
annie brown

My name is Yvonne Barriga, and I am actually an alumni from Odessa High.

annie brown

Oh, really?

yvonne barriga

I was also in the band.

annie brown

When Adison’s mom found out that her daughter was being quarantined for her senior night, she was skeptical that this was totally necessary.

yvonne barriga

Actually, I was at work when they called me and told me my daughter needed to quarantine because somebody in the bus that she was in, or supposedly that she was in, had Covid.

annie brown

And the nurses remember this call very well.

jamie newman

There was a parent who I called. I explained that her student was exposed. She told me, no, she wasn’t. She told me that it was ruining her senior year, to which I apologized, because I understand that it is ruining senior year from a teenage standpoint. And that’s the biggest thing in your life, at that point, is your senior year and prom and football games. So we disconnected her phone call. She ended up calling me back in about 5 or 10 minutes to argue further that her daughter was on the other bus. And so then I explained to her, without giving you too much detail, there are actually two buses. There were two positive cases. And your daughter was on one of the buses with a positive case.

yvonne barriga

So I asked them if they knew which bus it was on. Are you sure you can’t find out which bus it was instead of just assuming? Because we need to make sure.

jamie newman

She said, well, do you know which bus? And I’m not going to sit here and talk about bus numbers and time frames. She was on a bus for 30 minutes with someone who is positive. She’s exposed, and she can’t be here.

yvonne barriga

And I said, is there anything else that we can do if she has no symptoms? They said, no, she has to be quarantined for 14 days. I said, there’s got to be something else you can do to accept her going back so she can do her senior-night game. Finally, after arguing with the nurse, she finally said, she can get tested after seven days, but it has to be a P.C.R. test. And if the results come back negative, she can go to the game.

annie brown

The nurses had a legitimate reason for not offering this information immediately. The head nurse of the whole district told us that, at this time in Odessa, because the testing centers were overwhelmed, the health department had asked them to encourage students and parents to just complete the 14-day quarantine and not to get a test to come out of it early. But because this band mom was insisting, Jamie gave her the option to test early.

jamie newman

So we disconnected that call. And then she called me back a third time. And now you understand, Marissa and I were in the dead middle of quarantining — what was it? 49 students and a band director. That takes hours. So the third time she called me, she began to argue again, and I stopped her. And I said, ma’am, I don’t have time to talk to you about this again. You can’t argue out of it. She cannot be here. And she hung up on me.

marissa molina

And it didn’t stop there. I think that was the most frustrating part. She also went to the principal.

yvonne barriga

Well, I did have to talk to the main principal because it’s like, they weren’t trying to help these kids understand that you can get testing in seven days. They weren’t trying to reach out to help these kids or try to get them back into school. These kids are already losing out on the way they should be learning. And they just had this mindset that, quarantine 14 days. That’s it. Do you know what I mean? Not even trying to help to get these kids back in.

jamie newman

I don’t necessarily disagree with that parent. I am also a parent of a kid who goes to Ector County Schools. And he needs to be in school. I guess the only argumentative statement I will make is, we are doing this because we want the kids here. And we are ignoring our kids and ignoring our family, putting my life on hold to contact trace during a pandemic so that their kids can safely be on campus. And that would be my only argumentative statement.

annie brown

Essentially, the nurses and Yvonne were on either side of the struggle between the health crisis and the learning crisis. The nurses’ job was to do everything they could to keep it safe for kids to go to school in-person. But they understood the tension of having to keep some kids out of school in order to do that. I wondered if Yvonne also saw those competing poles. There’s something interesting that I’ve noticed in having conversations with the superintendent and the teachers and lots of students and the band directors and the nurses and parents, is that everyone is so frustrated. And it makes sense that they’re frustrated with the closest person that is standing in the way of life being normal. But then when you go and talk to the nurses, they don’t want it to be this way either. And so it seems to me, everyone is so frustrated with each other, when really, we’re all just mad about the virus.

yvonne barriga

Mm-hmm. It’s crazy. They have a lot of kids. They really do. But maybe CISD needs to consider hiring some more people to help them. So I understand their frustration. But at the same time, you have to look at their kids, too.

I don’t know. I think these kids are just ready to be back to normal.

annie brown

The nurses would agree that they needed more support. They were stretched so thin already. And it was often calls like these that really put them over the edge.

jamie newman

I actually had a situation with a parent last week where she unloaded on me. And I turned around and unloaded back on her. Because it had just reached a boiling point. I could not contain myself. She went on to tell me how she’s not happy with us. I’m not happy with you, she said. She goes, you’re not doing a very good job. And it broke me. It broke me. And I stood up out of my chair. I told her I did not appreciate her attitude in a very loud voice. And I slammed the phone down and hung up on her.

It was very overwhelming. And that’s working around the clock to keep it off campus. And it’s overwhelming because I’m already behind from yesterday. And now I’m behind from today. And I know, as soon as I get to work tomorrow, it’s just going to start over. And I’m just praying for it to be Christmas break. Just come on. Come on, December. We need you. We need a break.

annie brown

But before Christmas break was the final football game — senior night. And the unfortunate irony of the whole band-bus quarantine was that while dozens of members of the band were unable to attend the final game, Vianey and the other positive student, who had inadvertently exposed those students to the virus, were allowed to go to the game. C.D.C. guidelines at the time said that while people who are exposed to the virus have to quarantine for 14 days, those who already have it only have to wait 10 days, which meant that Vianey’s quarantine would end before the final game. In fact, she was even able to go to practice in the days before.

vianey cepeda

I first walk in. Everybody looks at me. I was like, OK. It’s normal, I guess, because I had come back from having the virus, you know what I mean? And then right before I enter the band hall, there’s two trumpet players talking about, oh, did you see Vianey is here? And I just walked by it because I didn’t want that to bother me. I walk into the band hall, and somebody screams, corona. Everybody, put your mask on. And I was like, OK. You all are being rude for no reason. And I was like, it’s OK. I tested negative. They don’t need to know that. And then I posted on my Twitter. I was like, why does everybody gotta be in my business? Because it was really bothering me that everybody was talking about me, because I don’t care when people talk about me. But when it’s something that I couldn’t control getting, it really bothered me. And then one of the guys tweeted something rude, that, like, you’re so selfish about yourself and all this and all that. And I was like, where is this coming from? I’ve never done anything to you. I tested negative. And I was like, OK, it’s whatever.

annie brown

What Vianey didn’t know was that rumors were starting to swirl while she’d been away — rumors about whether she was being completely honest about when she found out she had Covid or whether she faithfully quarantined. We couldn’t track down any concrete evidence to support these accusations, and Vianey adamantly denies them. But the stories remained fact for many members of the band.

vianey cepeda

The trumpets — they made a whole group chat just talking crap about me. And it really did hurt me because some of my good friends were in that section and my own family members in my section talking about me. Just the things that they were saying in that group chat really did affect me.

annie brown

Can you read what they said? Do you have it?

vianey cepeda

Yeah. OK.

Somebody said, “I’m going to be straight with you. We don’t want the drum majors at the game.” And someone said, “She could have prevented getting it, so it’s her fault.” And someone said, “How? Yeah, for real. Mask. You said it yourself that she told you she refuses to wear her mask.” Somebody said, “You cannot defend her careless actions.” And then someone was like, “It’s the guy’s fault because he didn’t tell her that he had it.” And then someone said, “Too bad. It was still irresponsible of her to attend rehearsal today. What was the rush? It’s not like we needed her there. She just wanted this attention. It’s people like her that ruined this year.” And somebody else said, “If my best friend and the horns can’t play this Friday, she cannot direct us. I refuse to be under her direction.” And they made a meme out of me. So —

annie brown

Oh.

vianey cepeda

And then there’s more, but I don’t know where it’s at.

annie brown

That’s all right.

vianey cepeda

So —

annie brown

What is it like for you to read those things there?

vianey cepeda

It hurt me because those were my friends. And them talking all that — that I couldn’t control — it really did hurt me because it was a family. I really saw it as a family. Sometimes I’m like, should I get out? Because I don’t see the point of being in band anymore, since it is my senior year and we’re not going to go to any competitions. So it’s like, should I get out? Because nobody even talks to me.

annie brown

It’s like the coronavirus didn’t just take away your senior year. It took away your friends.

vianey cepeda

Yeah. It was sad because it was my whole life for four years — three years. It’s like, I would always look forward to or something. Sorry, I’m crying.

annie brown

That’s all right. It’s all right. It seems like it’s really painful.

vianey cepeda

It is because band was my world. And I was happy. I was at my happiest there. They’re my best friends. I didn’t have no one to talk to from band. And how much effort I put into band, that hurt me. So —

annie brown

I’m so sorry. This has been a really painful year.

vianey cepeda

Yeah. But it’s OK. It’s what’s happening right now. So —

[music]
annie brown

Next time on Odessa: The first semester comes to an end, the marching band plays its final game and the dual crises of learning and health give rise to a third crisis of mental health.

In our fourth and final episode, the lessons from the district that was among the first to open.

[music]
soraya shockley

Odessa was reported and produced by Sindhu Gnanasambandan, Annie Brown, and me, Soraya Shockley; with help from Mitch Borden and Diana Nguyen; editing by Liz O. Baylen and Lisa Tobin; engineering by Brad Fisher; fact-checking by Ben Phelan; original composition by Dan Powell and Marion Lozano; special thanks to Larissa Anderson, Clifford J. Levy, Dana Goldstein, Kate Taylor, Clifford Krauss, Apoorva Mandavilli, Ken Belson, Jan Hoffman, Benedict Carey, Laura Kim, Nora Keller and Lauren Jackson.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Odessa, Part 3: The Band Bus Quarantine
Odessa, Part 3: The Band Bus Quarantine
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