Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have all seen massive changes in our daily routines. My days now usually begin with disinfecting the high touch surfaces in my house, watering my plants, feeding my mouthy cat his breakfast, and assessing my household’s cleaning product and hand sanitizer supply.
I used to spend a good portion of every day traveling back and forth from campus to spend time at my mom’s house and help take care of my dog. But my mom works at a nursing home, so since COVID-19 any contact with her is always a risk for both of us, as well as everyone she works with. When the lock-down began in March, I didn’t see her until June 14th. We spent nearly three months just calling and texting, speaking only of updates on cases in her building and deaths, waiting with bated breath to see if they would remain COVID-19 free. Since June, I’ve seen her four other times, trying to squeeze in visits knowing that the coming winter months will mean danger again.
I track every encounter. I always make sure I have a mask. I’ve been wearing them since before the mandate when my mom called me and told me to, along with the countless times she mentioned to wash my hands with the worry only a mother can have. I miss her, and I worry for her.
I miss the way my days used to be. I miss spending time with my dog at parks! But, I go through the recommended painstaking processes every day to do my part. Saying the COVID-19 pandemic is frustrating would be a massive understatement, but nothing is more frustrating than spending every day taking the proper measures, only to see Snapchat stories or Facebook posts of crammed house parties without a mask in sight. We all want our old routines back. The reality is that for now these guidelines should be our normal routines. This is the only thing we can do to help the situation and help people like my mom keep cases at bay.
Our frustrations, both with reckless people and the restrictions themselves, are valid as we navigate this public health crisis. Nothing is more difficult than change. The isolation, anxiety, and constant facetime with only computer screens is a massive burden. Social media has become fatiguing for many, and I know that I, at least, sometimes now wish for social opportunities I normally would have rather chosen to “just stay in” for. We’re learning to make a new normal in this situation, but those who ignore the guidelines can set us back in ways that are hard to even imagine.
Unfortunately, these setbacks aren’t confined to imagination, and countless news stories of “super spreader” events are out there. Bridge Michigan, a local Michigan non-profit newspaper, reported on such an event that centered around Michigan State University and a local bar frequently attended by college students. Harper’s Restaurant and Brewpub did not enforce social distancing guidelines or mask mandates, and unfortunately they had to learn the consequences in a way that affected lives. As of July 23rd, the establishment has been linked to 188 infections, 144 of those being patrons, average age of 21, who went to the bar over a period of eight days in June. The Washington Post also mentions a small wedding in Maine where only 65 attendees led to over 175 cases and 7 deaths. These both show that a single event that ignores guidelines can have massive ramifications, not just for those involved, but for the entire community.
We as a college community have to recognize the way that colleges all around the country are emerging as hotspots. The New York Times has a COVID-19 dashboard that tracks cases linked to U.S. Colleges, and its last updated figure from September 25th counts over 130,000 cases in 1,300 colleges across the country. We at Holy Family have already felt this impact, as our in-campus instruction had to be shut down, except for crucial labs, because of three positive cases.
According to Healthline’s interview with Tista Ghosh, MD, some research suggests that for every person who is sick with COVID-19, they may infect 2-3 other people. Of course, limiting events that can become super spreaders like those this article covers is top priority. If the person who is sick doesn’t go anywhere, they have no way to spread it. The danger is largely with asymptomatic carriers, who are people that are sick with COVID-19 but may feel perfectly okay for the entire illness. One study by Cambridge University has found that these carriers can spread the virus just as much as anybody who is outwardly ill. Masks are a crucial part of combatting this, because those who are sick and don’t realize empower the virus’ ability to spread in the air.
There’s no way to sugar coat that this responsibility is crushing, and that staying distant is hard. But our utmost responsibility is to each other, now more than ever. We are all faced with this challenge, and we can only overcome it if we’re united. The best thing we can do is focus on finding routines that are as safe as possible and work the best for us.
There are some general CDC guidelines we should all know by now, and I’m sure you’ve heard them so often they seem glaringly obvious. But when we’re still seeing stories every day of people who are breaking these guidelines, it’s clear they bear repeating. Avoid touching your face, wash your hands frequently for at least 20 seconds, wear a mask whenever you leave your house, try to stay six feet apart, and attempt to hold gatherings outside or somewhere with good airflow.
For more information on gatherings specifically, you can check the CDC website for their Considerations For Gatherings and Deciding to Go Out.
Angela Morrison is a senior at Holy Family University pursuing a B.A. in English. She has always been passionate about the written word and spends equal amounts of time reading and writing. Aside from literary hobbies, a lot of her free time is spent drawing, hiking, or watching TV.