Brankin: First-year students — please stop and think before you party.

While your first year of college is not what you wanted it to be, the consequences of not social distancing will make things far worse.

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Tara Brankin

For incoming first-year students, this past year has been one of great disappointment. Proms, graduations and other highly anticipated events have been canceled due to the persistence of COVID-19, ending many high school seniors’ final year on a dismal note. The summer of 2020 was not much better, with many restaurants, bars and other services remaining closed. While other countries across the world have seen a decrease in coronavirus cases, the United States’ rates have continued to climb since the beginning of September, despite health experts’ ongoing pleas to social distance and wear a mask.

It is because of these increasing rates that it is even more imperative for returning college students to continue to abstain from partying and hanging out in groups of 10 or more.

Already, many first-year students have apparently found this task to be very difficult. Across the country, students, specifically those new to college, have made the woefully irresponsible decision to act as if the spread of the coronavirus could not possibly affect them. Because of this, several universities across the country have been forced to alter their plans for the fall semester to compensate for the alarming number of students who have contracted the novel coronavirus. Many universities, like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, have already had to move all classes online after a massive spike in cases following the first week of classes. One of the main clusters of cases at UNC was in a first-year dorm.

University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel seems to already be acknowledging the possibility of a potential spike in cases upon first-year move in. In an email sent on Sept. 1, President Gabel announced that not only is first-year move in delayed for two weeks, but all students living in University housing will be expected to abide by a curfew and limit their movements. First-year students were originally supposed to move into the dorms in the first week of September.

First-years, we can all empathize with how hard this is. You’re away from home for the first time, and you want to fully appreciate your newfound freedom. But partying amidst a global pandemic is just not worth it. You could get high-risk individuals sick, or you could get sick yourself and have to go into quarantine. We all have to make sacrifices in order to slow the spread of this virus and cease the continuous loss of life. So please, use your freedom to make responsible decisions, not contribute to this already terrible pandemic.