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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: If our behavior doesn't change, things will get worse

Abbas Hasan

Since school started two weeks ago, two things have become clear. First, the UNC administration dropped the ball in organizing and creating a safe environment for classes to resume on campus. Second, some UNC students showed little to no responsibility for controlling the spread of COVID-19.

These two issues go hand-in-hand to contribute to the soaring cases at UNC and in Chapel Hill. The UNC administration relied on faulty assumptions, and enough students chose to ignore social distancing and gathering guidelines. This has led us to a point where we had 91 new cases in just one day last week.

Arguing over who is more responsible is an important conversation to have, but it won’t change our current situation, especially considering there were over 500 new cases last week. 

Yes, students are somewhat responsible for spreading the virus. But let's not forget UNC put us in this position to begin with. Regardless, it is time to make some serious changes.  

The transition to fully remote instruction and the two-day pause in classes isn't an excuse to become more lax about social distancing and community guidelines — we are in a dangerous phase of transmission. 

I'm no public health expert, but the almost daily Alert Carolina messages should be enough to indicate that things are NOT going well. Plus, who knows how many COVID-19 clusters exist off-campus?

The administration wrongly brought us all back here, ignoring professional and scientific recommendations in the process. But somehow, the administration still isn’t prepared to fully acknowledge its role in this disaster. Provost Bob Blouin said, “I don’t apologize for trying,” while the lives of students, faculty, employees and community residents are at stake. 

Students: we have to do better. 

We can’t change the events of the past two weeks, but we have an active role in shaping what the future will look like in Chapel Hill. In my own life, I can see more and more people getting infected. 

Practicing social distancing, limiting large group gatherings, keeping up with symptoms and quarantining have to be taken seriously. Ignoring these guidelines by saying, "we’re young, we’ll be fine," or, “if I get it, I get it" is part of the reason we are seeing spikes in cases across campus and Chapel Hill. If we do not change course now, cases will continue to rise and wreak greater havoc in our community. 

We need to consider that our actions have consequences beyond our roommates or classmates. Chapel Hill residents are being exposed to COVID-19, too, because students choose to ignore correct safety precautions. 

While I am urging students to be more responsible, I am well aware that the University administration is at the core of our current problem. Their ignorance and sense of entitlement laid the foundation for a new COVID-19 hotspot to emerge. 

Students had a choice in returning back to campus. Still, we were brought back to campus with the understanding that things would be safe. It was obvious even before classes started that it wasn’t going to be. Still, UNC chose to bring us back. For what? Money? The "Carolina experience"? As students continue to be infected, it is obvious that the University played with our lives. Now, we pay the price.

It's on students to make things better. Practice social distancing. Wear a mask. Don’t go out to parties. We can actively control the spread over the next few weeks to limit the damage of COVID-19.

Each day, I check the UNC COVID-19 dashboard and my heart breaks. Dozens of new cases are being reported daily. I always stop and think about the individuals, my peers and friends, that make up these statistics. It’s a scary reminder that someone from our school, in some way, is suffering, hospitalized or could even die. 

The upcoming days are so important in curbing the spread of COVID-19. Now is the time to step up and be responsible for our own lives and the lives of our peers. UNC didn’t do it, so we have to. 


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