As we begin another semester online, students across the country are mourning the loss of their college days. College is meant to be one of the most important times of our lives. It's when we learn what it means to be an adult and make personal and professional connections that will last us a lifetime.
Thanks to COVID-19, the majority of students are stuck in their rooms, taking classes online and living what has felt like nearly 365 groundhog days in a row.
A large number of people believe that younger people are the reason COVID-19 is spreading so rapidly across the country. They believe that we are all behaving irresponsibly and ignoring guidelines. I feel that these claims are untrue — at least for most of us.
"There are really responsible students who are doing their best everywhere, and I trust that that is the majority," said Diana Ayton-Shenker, a professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Ayton-Shenker co-teaches a series of lectures on the COVID-19 response this semester and is also the executive director of the ASU-Leonardo Initiative, an art-science research enterprise.
When many of us think of violating COVID-19 guidelines, we think of gigantic parties on the outskirts of campus. These mass gatherings do happen and they pose a serious threat to the health and safety of our community. However, that doesn’t mean this is the only way that students are breaking guidelines.
"Our actions have consequences and each and every one of us has to be responsible for our choices," Ayton-Shenker said.
A major cause of COVID-19 spread in this country comes from small gatherings. Yes, when you sneak your small group of friends into your dorm room, you are contributing to the possible spread of COVID-19 in the community.
Another factor that Ayton-Shenker brought up was campus location. ASU is a very large community located several major cities. This may make the spread of COVID-19 more difficult to contain in comparison to an isolated college campus.
This is where the responsibility falls on federal and state governments to control the pandemic, and as many of us know, the national and state-wide responses to COVID-19 were failures when compared to the rest of the world.
Considering how long the pandemic has lasted, it is understandable why people try to violate restrictions and guidelines. When we consider the mental health effects of isolation, it's easy to empathize with those who have violated the protocol. Despite this, it's still a risk.
We have been in “quarantine” for nearly a year. I put quarantine in air quotes because let's be honest, many of us have been bending the rules when it comes to social distancing. It may just seem like a minor risk, but when everyone is partaking in these minor risks, it can have major consequences.
Although these small gatherings may not be as risky as superspreader events such as weddings, funerals and parties, they are still major contributors to the spread of COVID-19, according to Ayton-Shenker.
"The more contact we have, the more risk there is of spreading infection," Ayton-Shenker said. "Superspreader events have a larger outcome."
Many individuals are experiencing what is known as "pandemic fatigue," which is a lack of motivation caused by the lasting psychological effects of isolation and social distancing.
"We initially thought of this crisis as a sprint, but it is actually a marathon," Ayton-Shenker said.
As with any marathon, it is important we do not slow down just because there is an end in sight. This is the time when we need to be most resilient. We should begin to feel optimistic as the vaccine begins to roll out, but breaking guidelines will not do us any good. Do not let an irresponsible decision be the reason somebody unnecessarily falls ill.
Editor’s note: The opinions presented in this column are the author’s and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
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Haley Tenore is the editor of the State Press Opinion Desk. Tenore is also a digital reporter for Cronkite News and a co-president of the Accessibility Coalition. This is her fourth semester on the opinion desk and second semester as editor.