Amidst the ongoing global health emergency triggered by the novel coronavirus, Ohio University extended its spring break until March 23 when virtual, online and remote instruction began for all OU students. 

But these kinds of changes are happening at universities all over world, closing campus activities and offices in an attempt to “flatten the curve” of the pandemic, controlling the severity of the disease before hospitals and health facilities can no longer handle the virus. 

This is only one of many changes that college students must now undergo – along with many losing jobs or suspending their employment as a result of the rampant business cutbacks and closures across the state, country and the rest of the world.

Many OU students, specifically, have been significantly uprooted by the changes, restrictions and substitutions to normal life occurring here and around the world. Many of us currently have no income, and those who do are usually being asked to handle customers and money every day, which clearly contributes to community spread of the virus. 

But don’t mistake my discomfort for dissatisfaction; I’m very impressed with the majority of Ohio’s response to the coronavirus crisis. Gov. DeWine (with the impeccable contribution of Dr. Amy Acton, director of the Ohio Department of Health) has been surprisingly transparent with daily updates at 2 p.m. They have offered many people solace in a time of great uncertainty. 

As I continue to stay updated on Ohio’s response to COVID-19, I also continue to keep updated on the now allegedly restricted lives of my peers. 

Many students have taken to the Internet, admonishing OU and other universities for “taking away their last semester of college” or “ruining fest season.”

To which I say “Boo-Freaking-Hoo.”

People are dying; every day the number of cases grows higher and higher, and I am confident in the data we have that suggests there are astronomically more cases in Ohio (and across the world) that have yet to be reported. Yet, some of my peers have the audacity to complain that they can’t spend a couple of weeks partying and putting other people at greater risk. 

Furthermore, I have observed a concerning number of my fellow students at OU ignoring the suggestions and restrictions put in place by politicians and public health officials, carrying on with their daily activities without a care in the world for the social distancing and self-isolation measures that everyone has been asked to adhere to. 

Most college students are actually relatively safe from the most severe effects of COVID-19 as a disease. Most data suggest that young people without pre-existing conditions might only feel mild cold and flu-like symptoms, while others may be completely asymptomatic.

While this may be somewhat comforting for young people, it actually puts older populations and immuno-compromised individuals at a greater risk. If most young people don’t feel very sick upon contracting the virus, they are seemingly more likely to go about their lives, business as usual, seeing their friends, going out and spreading the virus to God knows who. 

Now more than ever, people need to be able to trust one another and the information they’re being given, which is precisely why I have newfound faith in my state government, and an extreme lack of faith in many of my peers. 

These are uncharted waters; in modern history, few people – and hardly anyone in the developed world – has ever experienced anything like this. There are few if any comparable examples from history that can help us to understand what we are currently going through.

But I think it is abundantly clear that none of this will go away, and nothing will go back to “normal” if every single person, both in Ohio and across the world, doesn’t take these times seriously and do everything they can to prevent further spread of the new coronavirus. 

The news changes every single day, sometimes every hour, with new information and instructions of how to stay safe and mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. That being said, it can be increasingly difficult to stay safe and informed, especially with the sudden upheaval in the lives of everyone across the globe. 

Personally, I have lost the majority of my income, I am no longer able to see my friends and family for an indefinite amount of time, and my education has certainly taken a turn for something new and unexpected as my in-person instruction has transitioned to all-online and remote classes. 

Most professors and faculty members have been very understanding and supportive of their students, while some seem to have their minds on other things – which is absolutely understandable, this is a difficult time for everyone, university staff included. 

This is a time to be patient, compassionate and selfless about the wellbeing of all people, as clichéd as that may sound. 

Every day, these new experiences seem to teach us all more about ourselves, about each other and about the world we live in, and I encourage everyone to be vigilant and perceptive to the now-uncertain world we all live in. 

Hopefully, everything can go back to normal soon, or better yet, we can learn from these new experiences and improve and be more prepared for events like this in the future.

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