Step up, take charge

Sneha Prasath

As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise daily in Texas, which currently has upward of 440,000 cases, it becomes increasingly important for everyone to take the necessary precautions to stop the spread of the virus.

Although the University is making an effort to keep as many classes online as possible to prevent an outbreak on campus, many students will still be returning to Austin this month as leases and classes begin. 

UT will undoubtedly regulate on-campus activity and establish set capacities for buildings, but perhaps the biggest area of concern is in West Campus, which is not under the University’s jurisdiction.

Ultimately, students will have to decide between protecting their and others’ safety and having fun. Especially without a vaccine and the possibility of contracting the disease more than once, it is crucial students hold their peers accountable by encouraging each other to wear masks, breaking up social gatherings and confronting those who don’t follow safety guidelines. 

A large population of UT students are housed in the West Campus neighborhood in very close quarters. This could lead to an outbreak within the first few weeks back, for after five months away from friends, students will likely be tempted to hold social gatherings. 

But the responsibility to refrain from doing so falls on students, who must do their best to ensure they protect themselves as well as others. 

“If I saw someone without a mask, especially one of my friends, I would tell them to put on one,” advertising junior Bridgette Herrera said. “I’m done being nice about it; people are dying over this.”

If we all attached shame to not wearing masks and guilted our friends into wearing them, the whole student body would benefit.

“I think if everyone holds their friends accountable, we have already held the entire UT population accountable,” electrical engineering junior Annaclaire Kepple said. “If I did see someone without a mask on, I might even go as far as carrying around a few extra masks to hand out.”

Those who tend to avoid wearing masks or don’t “believe in” the virus don’t understand the extreme nature of the disease. A finance senior, who contracted the disease from a friend who was visiting for the weekend and wishes to remain anonymous, spoke of her experience.

“Honestly, it was way worse than I expected it to be,” she said. “You hear everywhere that this only affects older age groups, and that is definitely not true. I had a pretty bad case of it and so did both my roommates. The whole time, I was still working full time at my internship, and I felt like I was on the verge of death.”

It is essential students understand the repercussions of contracting COVID-19 beyond just the physical symptoms. Classes will happen regardless of how many students contract the virus, and academic deadlines will still be in place throughout the semester. The extra stress of playing catch-up after recovery will only add to the initial physical stress on those who contract the virus.

Truly, it is not worth it. The more we neglect to take simple precautions such as wearing masks and avoiding large gatherings, the longer this pandemic will last. We are all adults and shouldn’t have to wait around for UT or other authorities to tell us to be safe — we should just be doing it.

Herrera said if she heard a party being thrown in the apartment near hers, she would intervene.  

“Even if it was a small gathering, it’s better to be wrong than to be passive,” Herrera said. “If they live next to me, there’s a possibility it’s gonna spread to me.”

Now is not the time to stay silent. Students have to say something to keep our community safe. 

Prasath is a finance junior from Westford, Massachusetts.