Sagal Ahmed, Contributing Writer
Junior psychology major Annika Patel stayed on campus for the majority of break, but went home for the holidays and her brother’s birthday.
“It was a hassle because I had to quarantine before, which means I had to miss a week of work,” Patel said.
In order to limit her public exposure and risk for getting COVID-19, Patel decreased her hours working as a soccer coach. Patel said her parents had to help her with paying rent and bills because of her decreased hours.
“I made the decision to work less hours because it was safer for my family and I,” Patel said.
“It felt weird having to depend on my parents again for some time, but I do appreciate them helping me out.”
Her father is almost 60 years old, which has led Patel to become cautious when it comes to following COVID-19 procedures.
“When I stayed in Richmond, I didn’t go outside,” Patel said. “I would Instacart my groceries and spray every single package that I got down.”
Patel said she often saw people walking or running around campus without a mask. The only time Patel went outside was when she would travel back to her hometown of Yorktown, Virginia.
To occupy her time, Patel said she studied for the GRE exam and watched “Criminal Minds” on Netflix.
Patel said she was shocked to see people attend Christmas and New Year parties through social media. Patel saw a post that included 20 teenagers, none of whom were wearing a mask, in one picture.
“Even with the pictures with the masks on, you have to wonder like, ‘did they put the mask on for the picture and take them off afterwards?’” Patel said.
VCU senior public relations specialist Brian McNeil said those who resided in Ackell, Broad & Belvidere, Cary & Belvidere, Grace & Broad, West Grace North and West Grace South were allowed to stay from Wednesday, Nov. 25 at noon to Friday, Jan. 15 at 10:00 a.m. According to McNeil, there were 972 residents approved to stay over winter break.
Members of Jewish Life at VCU celebrated the holidays with precaution over the break. Senior public relations major Jenna Hasher helped organize the group’s two-night Hanukkah celebration.
“We take this time, and we light these candles to represent that we are beacons of light in the world, that good things can happen and that miracles can happen as well,” said senior public relations major Jenna Hasher.
“It is important because Hanukkah is usually a time where we come together and remember a miracle that occurred,” Hasher said. “Right now, we need miracles more than ever, so being able to share that experience with others was so special.”
The event was held on the first and last night of Hanukkah and took place outdoors. Fifteen people attended the first night, and five attended the last night. Members followed guidelines from VCU and the Virginia Department of Health, such as wearing masks and social distancing.
There were several changes to the celebration to accommodate the precautions taken, which included not having a big dinner or lighting the menorah on campus. Instead of on-campus gatherings, the events were held at the Jewish Life Center in Richmond.
“We did have little treats that were in to-go bags that they could take with them,” Hasher said.
“We also had little menorah kits.”
The group required attendees to RSVP beforehand to maintain a 15-person limit.
Because of safety concerns and travel restrictions, Hasher said many members were unable to celebrate with family.
“We hosted the small event so that they had somewhere to go,” Hasher said.
The event included discussing the background of Hanukkah and what celebrating means amid COVID-19.
“We take this time, and we light these candles to represent that we are beacons of light in the world, that good things can happen and that miracles can happen as well,” Hasher said.
Virtual classes begin on Jan. 25 with exceptions for students who are in clinical and field placements, co-ops, internships and other work-related learning activities.