Home Coronavirus COVID-19 Reflection A reminder that social responsibility can go a long way

A reminder that social responsibility can go a long way

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GRCC community members at the annual Raider Rally on August 28, 2021. (Courtesy Photo/Steve Jessmore)

If nothing else, one thing is for sure: humans can be divided much easier than many of us were aware of. 2020 was hands down one of the worst years in modern history, and yet the drawbacks of it seem everlasting at this very moment.

On March 11, 2020 the World Health Organization made a declaration that would change the ways humans lived entirely. Almost two months prior to that date, scientists were studying an unknown pneumonia outbreak that was occuring in Wuhan, China, labeling it as the coronavirus.

From that point forward, everything changed. Social responsibility was something you couldn’t, and even still can’t at times, apply to a larger portion of society as anti-maskers, conspiracy theorists and other non-believers refuse to show they can be socially responsible in the fight to end a global pandemic.

This past summer gave a little (false) hope of what the horizon looked like. Businesses were allowed to go back to full capacity, the vaccination numbers to reach herd immunity looked promising at first, and for a moment, students were inclined to believe masks were a thing of the past in school. Unfortunately, people got overzealous: we started living normally before it was safe to do so.

At this point, I am sick and tired of this pandemic. Non-vaccinators are tired of it. Fully vaccinated people are tired of it. Republicans are tired of it. Democrats are tired of it. It does not matter what race, religion or political party you identify with, humans are tired of this pandemic. But, the last 19 months with an unknown end might have been condensed into a shorter time frame if we as a nation would have worked together from the start.

Lately, I’ve noticed a great deal of individuals within the Grand Rapids Community College community showing they still aren’t convinced the pandemic itself, especially the delta variant, is something to be concerned about. Athletes (and even some Michigan Community College Athletic Association officials) are wearing their masks well below the nose and mouth region during indoor competition while some administrators and faculty members in some departments aren’t wearing masks indoors until a student comes inside the office.

“Our (GRCC) priority continues to be the health and safety of our students, employees and community members as we work through the pandemic,” said GRCC Communication Director Dave Murray. “Fighting this virus requires a variety of approaches. The face-covering requirement is one part of GRCC’s overall plan.

“Everyone – students, employees, and community members – are required to wear face coverings indoors in public settings regardless of vaccination status,” he said. “We have many face coverings available if students need them, and we are installing dispensers near main entrances in the weeks ahead. Students who refuse to comply with the policy are subject to the conduct process.”

Speaking from a student perspective, I completely understand the frustration behind not wanting to sit in class and wear a mask. As a man with facial hair, I definitely understand the frustration: having the urge to itch my face for 90 minutes straight is beyond annoying. How about the constant misinterpretation of what a professor is saying because they are essentially inhaling their mask while giving a lecture? However, as annoying as some rules are, the COVID-19 mandates are in place on campus in order to keep students, faculty and staff safe while the pandemic continues to loom. 

“We’re asking for people to think about personal responsibility,” Murray said. “We understand this is difficult, especially after nearly 20 months of the pandemic. We’re in this together. President Pink asked all of us to show patience and grace during these difficult times. We’re explaining why face coverings are an effective tool. We don’t want students to have their education or their athletic season disrupted because they or a teammate are sick.”

Now, if I were a student-athlete who was in class all day and had a game, match, etc. that same evening, the last thing I would look forward to doing is wearing a mask for at least 75% of my day – especially during physical activity. But, since most community colleges are giving their campus community the option to be fully vaccinated or not, the risk of spreading the virus is there. When athletes, coaches and officials aren’t wearing masks properly, the risk is especially there.

MCCAA Western Conference Volleyball Director of Officials Betty Near declined to comment when the Collegiate posed questions about the improper wearing of masks during matches, and instead referred questions to GRCC Athletic Director Lauren Ferullo.

“The health and safety of our GRCC student-athletes is our top priority, and the college has extensive safety protocols in place as we work through the pandemic,” Ferullo said. “Campus policy calls for face coverings to be worn indoors. That policy applies to student-athletes, as well as coaches, staff, officials and spectators. We don’t want anyone’s health impacted, or their education or season to be disrupted, due to COVID. We continue to work with students, employees and community members to remind them of the policy and other protocols intended to keep them healthy.”

There isn’t even the discreet improper mask wearing (just under the nose but high enough to not attract too much attention), it’s clear as day below the jaw line improper wearing. Spectators can often count on one hand how many athletes, coaches and officials combined are wearing their masks properly during events. Campus athletic directors and other school administrators decide what regulations are to be implemented and followed, while GRCC’s official messaging has been committed to reminding students we must all wear our masks properly while inside of all campus buildings no matter what individuals are doing.

However, this safety first messaging seems to be at odds with our campus reality. Though school administrators are reminding students and athletes that masks are worn to protect everyone from the virus, these same administrators aren’t always stepping in to tell other campus leaders to wear their masks correctly in the moment. It seems the COVID prevention advice is not being received in some instances.

The COVID conversation is tiresome. Like every other American and human on this planet, I am tired of this being a part of my life. But, it’s out of my control. All I could do from the start was to take part in my social responsibility: stay home to social distance, assess my personal beliefs about the vaccination and base my decision off that, and be kind to others with similar or differing opinions during the entire process. The reason for this particular piece of writing was not to shame others, but instead, bring up that point that humans have proven time and again they are more than capable of being socially responsible to benefit others – yet, we’ve been struggling with this since March 11, 2020.

At the end of the day, I cannot control the actions of others, nor can you. But we can control how we consider the well-being of others. So, until this damned virus is something of the past, let’s do better. Wear a mask properly when required and don’t be an inconsiderate person putting others at risk.

To the frontline workers risking their lives and working tirelessly each and every day since this pandemic began, thank you. To those who have made it their mission to be socially responsible since the beginning of it all up until this moment, thank you. To those who do not agree with how the pandemic was handled or may believe the virus was used as political leverage and still chose to be fully vaccinated to help reach the end game sooner, thank you.

This pandemic has placed a permanent strain on how humans will live, function and interact going forward. The least individuals can take from this pandemic is that social negligence leads to far more problems.

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