Anya Sczerzenie, Contributing Writer
Many VCU students have seen and been close to other students on campus who aren’t following the COVID-19 rules, including those without masks and those who congregate in large groups.
Senior communication arts major Keaton Mullins recalled the time he saw a group of around 15 people not socially distancing themselves walking through Monroe Park.
“It’s tempting to say something, honestly,” Mullins said.
COVID-19 cases on VCU’s campus more than tripled between Thursday and Tuesday, from 25 cases to 76. Sixty-three positive cases are students and 13 are employees, according to the university’s coronavirus dashboard.
Residential students who test positive are required to isolate themselves. Fifty-three on-campus students are currently in isolation, and 85 are in quarantine. Isolation separates those who are confirmed positive from people who are not sick, and quarantine restricts movement of those who may have been exposed to COVID-19.
Mullins said large groups of people are usually wearing masks, but he sees a lot of groups of two “walking down the street with no masks on.”
VCU is one of many universities nationwide that has decided to open with COVID-19 guidelines and restrictions for the fall 2020 semester. Masks and social distancing are mandatory inside VCU buildings like Cabell Library and dining locations, but once students are outside, they can take off their masks if they choose.
Eight of the coronavirus cases are linked to a party that happened on campus, according to a public health advisory email sent by VCU on Thursday night.
Gatherings of 10 or more students are prohibited and any student hosting a party or gathering of more than 10 people, on or off campus, is subject to interim suspension. The suspension immediately removes the student from campus and may require them to withdraw from classes. Participants in these gatherings are also subject to disciplinary action under the Student Code of Conduct.
Residence halls on campus have opened with restrictions, but students are still living in close quarters.
“People have been wearing masks in the hallways, bathrooms, and common areas,” freshman philosophy and criminal justice major Aynsleigh Escher said. “But, they’ve been congregating in the dorm rooms.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization have stated that masks are effective in preventing COVID-19. They have become a political issue across the country. Many Americans have refused to wear masks, seeing mask mandates as an attack on their personal freedom.
Junior information systems major Lexi Rogers said she often sees people wearing their masks incorrectly.
“I’ll see them with their mask on, but they’ll have their nose hanging out,” Rogers said.
Rogers said she tries to avoid people without masks but doesn’t say anything to them for fear that it will escalate the situation or expose her to the virus.
“I kind of feel bad about saying this, but when I see them I just move farther away,” Rogers said. “I have a grandmother who’s living with us right now and I want to make sure she stays healthy.”
Some students, however, say they see most people following the safety guidelines.
“A lot of people have been wearing masks, they’re pretty good about it,” freshman biology major Vaishnavi Nemani said. “I don’t know about the other years, but a lot of freshmen have been really good about wearing their masks outside.”
Younger people are less likely to socially distance than older people, according to a nationwide survey by the Democracy Fund. Young people who identify as Republicans are the least likely to socially distance.
Notre Dame, Michigan State and North Carolina-Chapel Hill have decided to shut down due to cases of COVID-19 on campus. At some schools, such as University of Connecticut, students have been evicted from dorms after throwing crowded parties during the pandemic.
Some students are concerned that if fellow VCU students throw parties like this, the consequences could be dire.
Vivian Ourand said she was walking down to the records department at VCU the first time she came to campus, when she came to a realization.
“I turned to my roommate and I said, ‘somebody’s probably gonna die this semester,’” the senior biology major said. “They shouldn’t have reopened at all, if you ask me.”