As the pandemic continues to rage on, St. John’s University has been constantly adapting. Now, almost a month into the spring semester, students have adjusted to virtual courses. And while only a fraction of students resumed in-person classes, the threat of a possible COVID-19 outbreak persists.
So what is the University doing to combat the spread of COVID-19? There are safeguards even before entering campus. Along with the required masks, there are campus passes. These self-screening tests designed to assess your immediate health and potential contact with COVID-19 have become a norm for anyone hoping to gain access to campus. However, the usefulness of these “tests” is debatable. They require most students to self-diagnose, in four “Yes/No” responses that most people probably take less than a minute to fill out. It is the bare minimum — like every other safety measure on campus.
Most of the time on campus, social distancing and mask-wearing do not seem to be an issue. However, I was in the Marillac Hall Auditorium for a class the other day and students weren’t practicing social distancing. As time goes on, people are disregarding some safety measures. On the floor of Marillac Hall, I see a sticker with a six-foot distance from another sticker, indicating social distancing protocols. I see the posters on the walls, advising students to put on masks, sanitize and social distance. Yet I think to myself: Are people even looking at these signs? I’m sure that if I was rushing, I certainly wouldn’t have noticed. If students aren’t following COVID-19 safety guidelines outside of campus, then these signs would make little difference. The reminders are useless if no one pays attention to them.
But if they were followed, would these measures prevent the spread of COVID-19? Do they protect students? Students don’t understand the severity of the situation. Many are of the mindset that it doesn’t matter if they contact COVID-19, because they are young and therefore, they would recover quickly. Even if that were true, we all have elderly people in our lives who could be at risk. There are faculty members on campus that could have serious health complications. I think about my own parents when I abide by COVID-19 safety measures. Students are touching doors and staircases without gloves. Some may not be wearing their masks properly. Others aren’t social distancing. When considering the implications of small occurrences like these, I get frightened. I have classes on campus and I have no underlying health concerns. It is worrisome that the protocols the University is enforcing might not be protecting people that do have health concerns.
This semester has been more or less the same as last semester, but the differences lie in how we individually perceive the situation on campus. Once again, most of us opted for virtual classes because we are scared. Our parents are scared. For some, it might just be the extension of a frustrating semester. For the freshmen, last semester was an introduction to college. As a freshman myself, I don’t know the St. John’s student experience as it was pre-pandemic. All school clubs and organizations have resorted to virtual meetings and events. This has limited school organizations, but the need for safety should prevail over everything else. I wish there was a better way to enforce safety measures, but these are precarious circumstances for everyone. This pandemic is unknown and we are all trying our best. I believe the University is handling the situation to the best of its ability because there is only so much you can do to contain the spread of the virus. Hopefully these measures will prove effective until vaccines roll out.