By KELLIE BOWMAN
As a student who has spent a lot of time away from campus last semester (not by choice, obviously) I think living on campus has been one of the things that I’ve missed most out of all the things that COVID-19 hastaken from me.
I partake in the occasional perusal of my social media to see what my peers (which consist of fellow Mary Washington students and folks I know from high school alike) have been up to since quarantine really hit. When school first started back up, I thought I would end up seeing a lot of people inside of their dorm room or apartment or at home. Instead, I’ve seen a handful of people (most of whom belong to sororities or fraternities) carelessly partying or seeing other people outside of who they live with without masks almost every weekend without fail. These parties look like they’re taking place in basements or enclosed areas.
Although I wish I could say I’ve been perfectly careful throughout this pandemic with adhering to every single measure, I haven’t. That’s something I can admit, and surely others can as well. But the occasional night out for dinner at a restaurant or going on a socially distanced picnic with your friends is not the same as attending parties of 15 or more without masks and without the proper quarantine measures.
During its first week back, James Madison University experienced a “rapid spread” of COVID-19 cases. Starting on Sept. 10, JMU’s newspaper started publishing an updated number of COVID-19 cases in a weekly update. During the first week and a half or so, JMU observed a whopping 149 cases. As of Feb. 9, Mary Washington has accumulated a total of 25 cases since Jan. 1. Although Mary Washington is considerably smaller than JMU, it is important that everyone does their part in ensuring that the spread of COVID is under control.
Seeing people out and about as though nothing is wrong worries me for a couple of reasons. The disease is highly spreadable and highly deadly to certain groups. Since we know this information, why are we, as responsible members of the community, actively going against the advice of health officials? Is it because we have the self control of Cookie Monster? Or is it because we really just don’t care? At any rate, at a time where the total death rate is nearly half a million, one might consider getting wine drunk with their roommates instead of attending that crowded frat party where it is highly likely that many germs spread very easily.
I caught up with some friends who live on campus. Hannah A. and their girlfriend were leaving Eagle Landing one weekend to go for a drive around Fredericksburg and when they returned, they were shocked to see the amount of people that were out walking towards campus. “Like everyone closed their blinds at Eagle,” said junior, Hannah A. “When me and my girlfriend were getting ready, we walked outside to my car and saw so many people walking to campus like later in the night at around 9 p.m. And when we were walking inside, there were girls in front of us and behind us who were talking about how they were going to be late to the bar and they also were not wearing masks.” They could only guess that a majority of those people walking towards campus later in the night were going to find parties to hang out at.
When I explain to people who don’t understand why we must enforce social distancing in order for some semblance of normalcy to return, I compare Mary Washington to America. If Americans don’t stay home and take the appropriate measures, we are going to prolong this pseudo-quarantine. The same goes for the university. Imagine if every time you went to a party, another day was added on the amount of days total that you have to spend in a COVID world, away from campus, away from all your friends. It would probably make you think twice about going to that party, right? For all intents and purposes, that is what’s happening.
Mary Washington has maintained a comparatively low number of cases, but as schools like JMU have exhibited, it’s extremely easy for that number to spiral. Hold your fellow Eagles accountable, and wear the mask.