Health protocols remain important despite difficulties of communal living

By MacKenzie MacDonald
Elm Staff Writer

Sickness is spreading around campus like wildfire. Many students may have thought this would be avoidable because we are required to wear masks on campus — but that just isn’t the case.

Illnesses on campus aren’t ever completely avoidable in communal living situations, but there are steps students can take to reduce the risk of getting sick.

“[Health services has] seen about 225 students diagnosed with either strep throat, upper respiratory illness, sinusitis, bronchitis, or tonsillitis. We also have one or two cases of mono[nucleosis],” Health Services Director Lisa Marx said.

Illnesses other than COVID-19 are spread — and can be prevented — on campus in much the same way as COVID-19.

According to Marx, students should avoid sharing drinks and wear masks in crowded settings. Students should also wash their hands often and avoid sharing any electronics without disinfecting them.

These are all good ways to avoid getting sick, but it is overly optimistic to assume that everyone will follow these guidelines.

This is the first time that many Washington College students are living in a communal setting. In light of the sense of freedom and independence this brings, some students may not follow health protocols as strictly.

I have seen this play out in my own dorm. No one really wears masks inside, and guests from other dorm buildings also often choose not to wear masks.

For students who are adjusting to life away from their parents, they may not feel obligated to monitor their health as closely. Now that students are living alone, their only resource is Health Services, who cannot hold every student accountable for making smart health decisions.

Newfound freedom is not the only cause of sickness on campus. To some degree, these illnesses are unavoidable.

“Getting sick is inevitable no matter what,” Freshman Lucy Verlaque said. “I think COVID-19 made us very conscious of [sickness], but at the end of the day, getting sick is just a part of life.”

We should do everything we can to be safe and stay healthy. In the end, though, we are only human. We are going to get sick no matter how safe we are.

Sickness on campus may be a source of anxiety for some students, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I think that [illnesses aren’t] preventable just because we have been isolated for so long and our immune systems haven’t had to fight anything off,” junior Emily Turfitt said.

Students who are worried about illness on campus should keep in mind that simply following the College’s mask policies goes a long way towards the prevention of illness. Masks are effective in preventing the spread of illness, and although we cannot totally eradicate sickness on campus, they are a great first defense.

We should still be taking precautions to ensure we stay healthy, despite the apparent inevitability of illness on campus. Communal living may be a breeding ground for germs, but if each student does their part, we can strive for a healthier campus this fall.

Photo by Izze Rios

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