My walk through downtown State College Friday night could be best described by numbers.
Eight people packed on a tiny apartment balcony. Eleven sitting outside of a fraternity house. Dozens standing in line at the bars. One girl who tried to high five me as I walked past her on Beaver Avenue. (I refused. You know, the pandemic and all.)
Few people were wearing masks, and even fewer were social distancing.
Several months ago, this would be considered typical student behavior on a Friday night in State College.
But several months ago, we were not in the midst of a global pandemic.
I have been living in State College since the shutdown began in March, and this weekend was by far the most crowded weekend the borough has seen since then. Students made the trip to State College to celebrate Arts Fest, despite the fact that the in-person festival was canceled.
With so many students back in town, this weekend serves as an indicator of how Penn State’s fall semester might play out. And it doesn’t look good.
From what I saw, the vast majority of students who were out acted as if the pandemic was nonexistent. Downtown was filled with many groups of students traveling closely together, making their way to crowded bars, apartments and houses.
When over 40,000 people return to the area in a month and a half, I can only imagine how many students will disregard health precautions.
The impact of this could be serious — and fatal.
This weekend demonstrates that some students are simply not willing to act like responsible adults. It is foolish to even entertain the idea of trusting all students to take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.
I understand the weather is nice. I understand students want to hang out with their friends after months of quarantine. I even understand the thought process behind, “I’m willing to risk getting the virus to have a good time.”
What some students need to understand, however, is that this virus has a collective impact, not an individual one.
A student who chooses to follow precautions in the fall could easily become infected by a roommate, classmate or friend who decided they didn’t want to follow precautions.
That isn’t fair.
When Penn State announced we would return back to campus in the fall, I was excited. I want to learn in a classroom and interact with people face to face.
However, my excitement has fizzled into realism over the past few weeks. “Returning back in the fall” does not mean “returning back to normal.”
We cannot return back to “normal.” The pandemic is still happening — in fact, it’s getting worse. On Saturday, the United States reported the highest spike in daily cases since the beginning of the pandemic.
If students want to return to campus safely in the fall, sacrifices need to be made. It will ultimately be on each student to take personal responsibility to combat the virus.
Sadly, I do not believe all of my fellow students are willing to make sacrifices for the greater good of the Penn State and State College communities.
As of Saturday, one Penn State student, over 137,000 Americans and over 560,000 people worldwide have died from the coronavirus.
How many more have to die before we all feel the weight of personal responsibility to protect our friends, family members, neighbors and peers?