Opinion: Easy to be irresponsible re: COVID for young people


“PM 2.5 Premium Mask” by TheBetterDay is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.

Akasha Khalsa

We are beginning this semester in the midst of a potential resurgence of the COVID 19 pandemic. As young people, we carry the responsibility of behaving in a conscientious manner to protect our professors and peers, and those who are most vulnerable in our midst.

You’ve heard it a million times before, but we have to say it again: don’t be stupid, students of NMU. We don’t know how we can possibly impress this on your conscience if you haven’t already realized that your actions have become a matter of life and death. In these first few days and weeks of adjustment, we are all going to set a precedent for how this semester will proceed. We determine if Fall 2020 in-person classes at NMU are going to squeak by or end in a failure to contain the contagion.

President Fritz Erickson said in a recent email, “As part of the expected student behavior and COVID safety protocols outlined in the Official University Requirement, you are being asked to take care of yourself, others, and the NMU and U.P. communities.”

That’s far from an unreasonable expectation. Think twice before you attend parties, or hook up with someone new every night. Instead, there are outdoor movies, hiking, biking, workouts, and solitary binge-watching Netflix.

“Not following these procedures during this pandemic violates the Student Code. To be frank, this includes house parties and large gatherings in the woods or on area beaches, like McCarty’s Cove on the 4th of July,” said Erickson.

The bare minimum of modeling good behavior and living within the guidelines is wearing a mask over your nose and mouth when you’re out of your dorm.

Although it’s true that most young people who contract COVID are not likely to die or suffer serious consequences from the virus, death is still a possibility. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s “Provisional COVID-19 Death Count by Age, Sex, and State” there have been 265 deaths in the age range 0-24 during the week of Aug. 5.

Furthermore, passing the virus along to someone who will be catastrophically affected by it is more than likely if you don’t accept your responsibility to your fellows. Your actions are in your power. In a situation such as a pandemic, many things are out of our control. Your behavior is not one of those things. Use your agency to protect rather than endanger others.

We all know how easy it is to go along with the actions of the lowest common denominator in our social group. It feels good to relax into mimicking the unwise decisions of our least vigilant acquaintance. Under normal circumstances, this might just lead to a bad hangover or a morning-after pill, but we’re living in different times than we were a year ago.

There are guidelines you may not have thought of, and which you can include in your efforts to protect everyone around you.

According to the CDC in the “Considerations for Institutions of Higher Education” students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to “keep their personal items (e.g., cell phones, other electronics) and personal work and living spaces clean” and “Discourage sharing of items that are difficult to clean or disinfect.”

This includes electronics, as well as books, folders, writing utensils, earbuds, and water bottles. The CDC recommends that you carry a water bottle to class and other destinations so as to avoid the necessity of touching public drinking fountains and vending machines.

The CDC also advises that we “use forms of transportation that minimize close contact with others (e.g., biking, walking, driving, or riding by car either alone or with household members).”

There are also considerations to take into account with your mental health, and that of your friends. Isolation, normal school stress, and a sense of the end of the world all take their toll. The CDC recommends that we all take a break from consuming news stories about the virus and other world events from time to time if overwhelming feelings begin to take over. In addition, maintaining healthy eating, sleeping, and exercising routines will help, along with getting lots of sunshine. Process your mental state with trusted community members.

Keep all this in mind if you want to avoid COVID spreading like wildfire in your dorms and classes. I for one do not want to end up in COVID prison in Spalding Hall this year.

Youth generally involves a feeling of immortality, but overcoming this illusion has to be a part of protecting ourselves and vulnerable members of our community.

In the first weeks of this semester, so much will be decided by the social precedents students set amongst themselves in social places in Marquette-area houses and residence halls. Those for whom it feels like the worst can’t happen will be the most dangerous members of our community.