In the midst of complete uncertainty and panic, it can be hard for us as college students to look beyond our own fears and frustrations. Some of us are booking cheap flights as a distraction, while others are checking Blackboard every five minutes for updates. No matter what coping method we are using, one thing is certain: everybody is taking some sort of hit from this virus, something we must be mindful of.
To put it bluntly: there’s nothing like a pandemic to show us we are all human, and we really should care about each other.
At this point in time, being selfish can have drastic consequences. Just because the virus is not a death sentence to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your part to stay healthy and prevent the spread of the virus. According to the CDC, people are the most contagious once they show symptoms. We have an obligation to stay away from others, especially the most vulnerable populations, no matter how much we want to see that new movie, how much “better” we feel, and so on.
On this same note, employers and supervisors have a unique responsibility to be understanding when their employees are sick. Avoiding being short-staffed is not worth putting lives at risk. When possible, let employees feeling under the weather work from self-quarantine so they can still earn the income they depend upon. Be creative in coming up with solutions to limit the financial strain being away from the job causes.
With the great push of social distancing, many are fearing adverse impacts on their mental health and those at higher risk of getting very sick with COVID-19. However, there are ways to show we care about each other without putting ourselves and others at risk. Call up those in quarantine or message them — tell them you are thinking of them, or even set up a Facetime date. Send care packages filled with movies and other indoor activities, but just make sure to properly disinfect everything.
For those who cannot make it to the store due to being at high-risk, offer to pick up items they need. Nobody should have to forgo basic needs, such as nutritious food, due to being self-quarantined. Many of our staff members have already seen Facebook friends offering to grocery shop for others, giving a ray of hope to this stressful situation.
College students, faculty and staff are not the only ones feeling the effects of in-person classes being cancelled. The closure of all Illinois schools — both public and private — has left parents and guardians to scramble to find childcare for their kids, and for those who depended on schools to feed their kids breakfast and lunch, the closure is extra worrisome. Now is the time to show those impacted they are not alone: those not meeting for class and who are not at high risk of contracting the virus can offer childcare for family and friends at reduced costs, or even better, for free. Extra income can be spent on picking up extra groceries and delivering to families in need.
Some local businesses are already helping to alleviate some of this stress. On Saturday, McAllister’s Deli in Edwardsville took to Facebook to announce they will be offering free lunch to kids from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. A list of other Illinois locations will be offering the same service. If you work at a restaurant in Illinois, talk to your employer about following suit to help local families out. Even if help cannot be implemented on this large-scale, there’s always something that can be done.
Right now, all of us across campus are facing great uncertainty due to COVID-19. As a staff comprised of both graduate and undergraduate students, we know first-hand how stressful this idea of an “extended” spring break is. We too are waiting for our professors to update us on the rest of our semesters, word from housing as to if our requests to stay in our dorms have been approved and so on. But we are not the only ones who are frustrated; professors are tasked with transferring content online, and some who are now trying to navigate this don’t even use Blackboard. Department chairs are trying to find creative ways to rework graduation requirements that have been halted by dorm closures and the ban on in-person instructors. Be patient — everybody is trying to figure it out, too. Treat fellow students, faculty, staff and administration with kindness.
Lastly, let this time change your worldview. We don’t have to wait until the next pandemic hits close to home to help out others and consider their needs. Let’s start sharing the love (but not germs) now.
It’s time to stop getting wrapped up in the inconveniences COVID-19 causes us personally and start tuning into our common humanity.