OPINION: Our View: Masks, COVID and college — oh, my!

After leaving Kent early in the spring, I could not wait to go back to school in the fall. It was hard for me to think about the fact that we would still be in this situation and faced with such an unclear outcome for our future. 

Throughout the summer, I continued to think that everything would be OK in the fall, even though I was watching people around me not being safe. Going through Snapchat, I watched people go out to the bars and go to parties, acting like there isn’t a pandemic going on.   

Now entering into the fall, I have two classes in person and while I am excited to be back in Franklin, I am also terrified. I didn’t think about the fact that I could go completely remote, because while I know I am safe, I don’t know about my classmates. 

I am going into the fall semester with stacks of masks, bottles of hand sanitizers [many that smell bad due to them being made in distilleries] and staying my distance from everyone else. I can only ensure the fact that I am being safe for the people around me, but I don’t trust the people around me to keep me safe.  

My biggest hope is that there is a day soon where I know it is safe and I can walk around without having to wear a mask. A day where I can make plans with my friends, for them to pick me up and for me to sit in the front seat, mask free — instead of sitting in the backseat, windows down, mask on. But, it takes everyone to make that change — not just me. 

As we face the changes and uncertainty of the fall semester, it’s important for all of us to practice thinking more about everyone rather than just ourselves. We all need to wear our masks, wash our hands and keep a safe, social distance from others. We’re all missing things like sports, concerts, full classrooms, parties and so on. But the only way to get those things back is to follow the safety guidelines in place, not only at the university but in general. 

It’s also important to take an introspective approach during this time. We may all be frustrated that some of our plans were canceled, or maybe we hate wearing masks that throw off our whole outfit, and it’s OK to feel that aggravation. But it’s crucial to realize that in any situation, it could always be worse. Being upset about having to wear a mask or the fact that a concert you bought tickets to was canceled pales in comparison to some of the real hardships people have faced during the pandemic so far. From people losing their jobs, homes, having to close their business, getting sick with the virus and — in the worst cases — dying, it’s hard for me to justify the upset surrounding masks and social distancing. 

Whether returning to campus in the fall is the safest thing to do is up to interpretation. Like everything else, the pandemic is saturated with opinions and is continuing to be more of a divisive issue than a public health crisis that bands the country together. But regardless of how we feel about it individually, we still need to protect ourselves and others if we have any hope of a maskless future.