By Kennedy Mapes
Under normal circumstances, with college campuses opening up and students returning to class, it would be likely that students would make plans for the upcoming holiday on Monday. Whether that be getting together with friends, traveling, attending parties, or visiting family. However, the circumstances we are currently facing are anything but normal.
With COVID-19 bringing so many plans to a screeching halt throughout the course of 2020, how, or if, Labor Day will be celebrated by college students is being called into question. Are students making plans for the holiday? If they are, are they taking the pandemic into consideration?
Hayden Dobb, a senior at Grand Valley State University, explained that she feels that the majority of her peers are aware of the severity of the pandemic and are trying to limit their exposure to other people, but that there is also a good portion of the student body who are ignoring the social distancing guidelines implemented by the school.
“There have been so many parties in just the first week of school, it’s insane,” said Dobb. “It’s really worrisome how many people don’t seem to be aware, or care, about social distancing and staying cautious during this time.”
Dobb said that she and her friends don’t have any plans for the upcoming holiday, but that it wouldn’t surprise her if some students continued to ignore the guidelines in order to celebrate it.
“The parties that are happening aren’t little,” she explained. “I have seen videos and there are so many people there that you can’t even move around. Obviously, we are college students, and we want to have fun. We can still live. We don’t need to hide and feel like we can’t do anything, but we also need to be sensitive and responsible.”
Jacob Israde, a student in his fourth semester at Grand Rapids Community College, weighed in on the issue, too.
“People want to get that college experience,” Israde said. “They want to get that taste of different cultures and of different people, and it’s hard to do that when everyone is quarantined and social distancing.”
Israde then went on to say that although students may really want to seek out that experience, they need to ask themselves if getting a taste of that is worth giving up certain morals and virtues that they might have.
“I get why,” said Israde in reference to students hosting or attending parties. “We’ve been in this lock down state since March and people are starting to get restless, however by doing that, you are compromising your brothers and sisters, your fellow classmates, as well as their families. It’s a bit selfish. With a pandemic like this, we all have to be 10 toes down, in this together, in order to overcome such a challenge.”
Dan McGee, a pediatric hospitalist at Helen Devos Children’s Hospital, recommended that students stay away from any type of indoor gatherings and that with outdoor gatherings, people should still practice social distancing and wear their masks. He explained that there has been an uptick in positive cases after several holidays and this one won’t likely be any different.
“I think that what some people don’t realize is that while they are relatively healthy, not only can they catch COVID-19, they can spread it to others,” said McGee. “College students have parents, grandparents, and nieces and nephews that they can spread this virus to.”
McGee explained that 40 percent of all people that have the virus don’t ever show any symptoms, meaning students could be spreading it to their peers and families without even knowing.
“I was in college once too,” said McGee, “and I had a very active social life. But these are different times and different times require us to make adjustments to what would be normal.”
Kent County Health Department officials are urging college students to do their part to help stop the spread. Karla Black, the health department’s Emergency Preparedness Coordinator, shared what students can do to contribute.
“We’re really asking for students to think about their actions and pay attention to the public health guidelines,” said Black.
Black also urged those students who test positive, or who might have been potentially exposed, to answer the Health Department’s contact tracing calls and to comply with their interview process, as it is important to identify every person the virus could have reached in order to stop the spread.
“In the simplest words, just please start thinking about people other than yourself,” Black said. “I get it. It’s rough. Humans are inherently social beings. We want to be around other people and meet new people and that’s all a part of the college experience. I absolutely get that, but these are different times and we need people to start thinking outside of what this means only for themselves and to start asking “‘what could this do to my community?’”’