In case you have been living under a rock, COVID-19 is still out there and growing even more destructive each day. But, unfortunately, that’s not stopping my fellow college students who want to live their best lives and be in the streets.
When COVID-19 first swept across the country last year, everyone was devastated. It seemed that daily life had come to a halt and all the small nuances that made life fulfilling were gradually taken away.
While most adults attempted to make the transition to quarantine life, there was one group of adults that had a different idea: college students. The newfound freedom, activities, and festivities that usually come with college life were all gone at the snap of a finger. On-campus students had no choice but to return home, where they watched their independence slowly slip away from them.
Hot college spots
A canceled spring semester combined with a canceled summer did not boost university students’ morale. Returning back to campus with an intense case of FOMO (fear of missing out), students were ready to get back to their pre-COVID lives. However, there was one looming issue being overlooked: the virus was never contained.
Over 400,000 people and counting have died from the virus already and the administration of COVID vaccines is off to a slow and unpredictable start. Still, despite the constant PSAs, social distancing guidelines, and high risk of infection, university students continued to fight for their right to party.
On December 11, The New York Times drew up a map of COVID-19 hot spots at universities across the U.S. The numbers in super-spreader states such as Florida and Georgia are particularly high. Major universities like Florida State, University of Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Central Florida, and the University of Miami had COVID-19 cases in the thousands.
As of Jan. 28, Florida A&M University had about 297 cases and Florida State had about 1,904 cases. However, due to the recent rising cases, on Jan. 30, FAMU enacted mandatory curfews for on-campus students, with hours starting as early as 10 p.m. during the week and ending at 6 a.m. There’s also a testing and vaccine site on FAMU’s campus.
Why risk it?
Why would anyone attend a party at the risk of COVID infection? Easy. Normalcy. Students attend large public events, parties, and clubs to achieve that sense of normalcy that we all crave right now.
On-campus and off-campus students were contained in their parents’ homes, unable to go anywhere. When they returned to campus, it was unlike weeks prior when students were able to visit friends and go to social gatherings without fear of contracting a deadly virus.
Upon their return and faced with a choice, the university students began to diverge into two groups. There was one group that adjusted to the COVID protocol and stayed isolated while the other group continued to live their pre-COVID lives in a post-COVID society. While the second group’s behavior is not excusable, it is explainable.
Florida A&M University student, Ray H., has reaped the consequences of not following COVID protocol. As a senior student and fraternity member, Ray usually attends multiple school organization meetings. Following protocol, the school-sanctioned meetings have been moved to Zoom. Aside from the school organization meetings, Ray also occasionally attended parties and clubs.
“Every other weekend I would hang out. I went to GVO (club) once and Top Flight once or twice. I also went to small parties. They were house parties”, Ray said.
Club scene unbothered
The clubs were at full capacity and grew even more crowded each time Ray returned.
“GVO had about 70 to 80 people. Top Flight had about 50 to 60 people. The second time I went [to Top Flight] it was about 100 people.” GVO and Top Flite are popular clubs in Tallahassee, FL.
The clubs were open to what seems to be full capacity. But the house parties hosted an even larger number of people.
“The small parties can be from 30 to 50 people and the bigger ones were about 100 to 120 people,” Ray recalled. He also mentioned that he took off his mask while at some of these events.
But was it worth it? Eventually, Ray H. contracted the COVID-19 virus in mid-November and remained sick for ten days. Since contracting the virus and surviving, Ray H. has carried on with a little more caution.
He learned that no one is untouchable. He continues to visit friends to hang out, but he now tries to avoid clubs. Most importantly, he wears his mask, social distances, and keeps that sanitizer on him.
Who’s at fault?
As a student, I will accept some accountability for the spread. Despite the red flags and curfews, there are still large social gatherings. Instagram, Facebook, and Eventbrite are full of parties to RSVP to.
The idea to keep living your best life is a tempting one.
State governments failing to take the proper initiatives to prevent the spread is also a downfall. Here in Florida and Georgia, statewide mask mandates are off the table.
Florida alone currently has over 1.6 million cases with Georgia trailing closely behind over 885K, according to the latest numbers from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC).
The lack of restrictions from state governments shows little to no concern for the public’s safety.
That’s why we have to continue to do our part. As for me, I’ll be staying at home, restricting my turn-up to a few trusted friends in my apartment.
Until the normal times return, if they do return, I will be social distancing and staying masked up. Let’s continue to practice these habits to stay healthy, together.
Kylii Clay is a junior Broadcast Journalism student attending Florida A&M University. She is a freelance and staff writer for the Famuan Newspaper .