I got an email about three new COVID-19 cases reported on campus. Two of which were students living in the dorms.
Of course, reading this will spark some anger in the general community, especially those respecting the social distancing rules that the government has imposed. I won't assume anything, but I can't help but question: where do all of these cases come from? For the past two weekends, I've scrolled through Instagram posts and stories of UH Mānoa freshmen students. Out-of-state and dorming UH Mānoa students specifically. What do I see? Group pictures at the beach, group pictures on-campus (and without masks, may I add), group pictures in dorms, and even more group pictures at the beach. It's one thing to go to the beach for exercise purposes, which is beneficial to one's own physical and mental health. It's another to go out with a group of people, coming from all over the country, on a tiny island where a virus is already out of control, simply for the 'aesthetic.' (Here's another reminder that the land we are on is sacred. It is not your aesthetic.)
"I'm getting tested," "It's no big deal, other people are doing it," "I don't want to lose my freshmen experience," "I want to bond with my new classmates."
Here's a reality check: there are scientists working tirelessly every day trying to find a cure and vaccine for the virus so that everyone can go back to living their lives normally. Front-line workers are getting overwhelmed with patients diagnosed with COVID-19. They're risking their own lives to make sure COVID patients' lives are cared for. More and more people are getting affected and although you may not be affected, you can easily be carrying around the virus unknowingly and spreading it to more vulnerable people. These thoughts are selfish. Regardless of how safe you think you're being, going out in groups of five or more is completely against what health officials are asking you to do.
And if that reality check isn't enough, imagine the amount of growing cases on O'ahu just from irresponsible people that were already living on island. This island is small and overpopulated. Any public place you go to will most likely be crowded and it's hard to tell who has it. Once you interact with any person that's been infected and if you live on-campus, you'd be bringing that virus onto campus, which is exactly where these cases come from.
Triple-digit cases are absurd. We lost control of the virus. Now, we all have to do our part to get it back under control.
Since the first case of COVID-19 was reported in the state back in March, there was a three-day period where no cases were reported. The number of cases was below 10 for weeks at one point. Suddenly, the state was reported a triple-digit case spike. Eventually, triple digit cases were reported daily. This could've been avoided if we all kept group gatherings to a minimum. But we can't live in the past, we can only learn from it. We know that masks work. We know that social distancing works. If you want to bond with your classmates, you can at least do it responsibly. Don't ruin other students' chances–like us commuters or those that weren't able to fly here because of the pandemic–from being able to come onto campus just because you want to enjoy the island. In common times, you'd be free to do whatever: explore, surf, swim, party, take pictures. But these aren't common times and we all need to realize that.
I want to go back on campus.
We all want campus to fully open. In-person classes and meeting with people face-to-face are always ideal. However, if more cases continue to get reported, not just on campus, but in the state as well, that won't be able to happen. Other colleges are already sending students home because of the growing number of cases on campus alone. The last thing I want is for my fellow classmates to have to pack up all their things and fly back home to the mainland. It's a waste of time and money that can be avoided if we all do our part and properly follow social distancing rules.
So please, be responsible. We're adults now. Help prevent the spread of COVID-19 by social distancing, wearing masks in publics or in large groups (which you shouldn't be in in the first place), and don't go out as much, unless it is completely necessary.