In Spring of 2020, the world was introduced to a pandemic, our spring break at home got extended indefinitely, and I began an over-a-year-long acquaintance with the inside of my room and the desk that resides within it. For the 2020–2021 academic year, we knew only a virtual experience here at West Chester University and now we have returned to campus. Although much has changed from the departure to our return, the changes made pale in comparison to the miles we have travelled. As a planet we have struggled, as a country we have fought and as a community we have endured.
It would be wrong to say that things are back to normal. While we are back in person and able to meet with our friends, we still have to wear our masks, wash our hands ever more frequently and engage with others in a safe manner. While we have gained the ability to be back in person, we have to continuously earn that privilege by abiding by the guidelines set in place. Personally, masks can be annoying— that is something that I understand. Masks pull at your ears, make your face sweat and bring about a feeling that you are breathing your own air most of the time. No matter how annoying they may be, for the time being they are one of the reasons why we are able to be on campus.
I believe a new normalcy has set in — at least for me — where I have gotten used to wearing masks while indoors, but then I realize it is still something that I am not fully integrated with. Just last week I was in my dorm; it was late and I was tired. I realized that the trash can was full so I took the trash bag out of the can, opened my door and walked down the hall to the trash room. On my way back, I ended up passing two other people that were wearing their masks, and granted, they were only partially on. It was after passing them in the hallway that I realized that I was not wearing my mask. I tell this story because it highlights that I am not fully used to this experience quite yet and depending on how tired I am, I may still just forget.
It is imperative that we do not forget that the pandemic is still raging around the world, especially within the United States. It is still important to realize that Americans are dying every day and that as of Sept. 10, 2021, we are close to approaching the morose milestone of 660,000 total deaths within the United States. I will admit to forgetting to follow every guideline perfectly — I am only human — but we cannot falter now in how we carry ourselves. We have come so far, grown so much, and while we may be increasingly stressed with our school work, we should remain on our toes when it comes to the pandemic.
The pandemic is still a thing, and I know that no one is surprised by that nor very happy about it, but the ability to end this sooner lies in all of our hands. If you have yet to be vaccinated and you can, just do it. I understand that masks are annoying and get hot, but your nose and your mouth should be covered when you have to wear them. Wash your hands more than normal and make sure to clean and wipe down things when you can.
In the end, we are all in this together and even if you care about no one else but yourself, it is still within your own best interest to follow any guidelines set in place. We have all taken a long journey to get back to campus safely. I am sure that most of us are relatively excited about being back on campus and not having to be stuck in our rooms most of the day. To ensure that we don’t have to return home, we have to prove that we have learned from our previous mistakes.
After being sent home for spring break only to learn that I would not be returning to campus for the rest of the academic year, after learning my community college graduation would be online, and after realizing that my first year at WCU would be virtual as well, I never wanted anyone else to have to experience that. I am sure a great deal of us have experienced at least one of those listed disappointments, which is why it is important that we understand how imperative it is that we follow whatever guidelines we have to. We know how far we have come and most would rather that we do not go back.
New York Times Vaccinations Map: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/us/covid-19-vaccine-doses.html
New York Times Cases Map: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2021/us/covid-cases.html
WCUPA Guidelines: https://www.wcupa.edu/healthNotices/studentCommunityAgreements.aspx
Evan Brooks is a fourth-year Business Management major with minors in Economics and Civic and Professional Leadership. EB916132@wcupa.edu