By now, we’re all familiar with the best practices to keep ourselves and those around us safe from COVID-19. Wear a mask whenever you leave your home. Stay at least six feet away from anyone you don’t live with at all times. Instead of eating out at restaurants, order takeout and eat at home. Don’t gather with anyone outside of your household.
These are the basic guidelines we heard back in March, and we’re still hearing them now—with good reason. They’re the best rules to live by during a pandemic. Please follow them.
We know that they are the best ways to prevent coronavirus from spreading.
But we also know that we can’t realistically expect that all college students will follow them, for a wide variety of reasons. Particularly the rule about not gathering with anyone outside your household.
We know that for many of you, and in fact for many of us here at The Maroon, this is your last semester of college. You’re trying to learn how to say goodbye to friends, to this amazing city, to an era of your life. It’s hard and it’s unfair that your college experience has to end this way. So we understand why you might be inclined to bend the rules in favor of making memories before you graduate. But that doesn’t change the fact that most social activities can pose a significant danger right now.
So if you’re going to get together with people you don’t live with—and we know most students will—here are some ways to keep yourself as safe as possible.
First things first: wear a mask. A lot of us feel like broken records at this point, repeating the same thing for almost a year now. Apparently, it still needs to be repeated. Besides avoiding contact with other people, mask-wearing is the single most important thing you can do to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
If you’re going to meet up with friends, do so outside whenever possible. New Orleans has some amazing public parks, including one right across the street from campus. Make use of them.
Perhaps most importantly, keep your circle small. As the number of people you’re in close contact with increases, the chances for COVID to spread increase exponentially. A walk in the park with a couple mask-wearing friends is pretty safe. A house party with dozens of people is not.
Remember that your circle overlaps with those of your roommates and those of anyone you’re in close contact with, especially if not everyone is wearing a mask. If you notice that someone you live with is going out too much or hanging out with too many people, you need to talk to them. It will probably be uncomfortable, but we have to hold each other accountable.
If you’re going to meet up with friends unmasked and un-distanced, establish who you’re going to do that with now. Keep the list as short as possible. Talk to your roommates. Have everyone decide who they are going to allow themselves to be in close contact with, and make sure everyone feels safe with the amount of outside contact you’re allowing. Have everyone in your circle get tested regularly. The City of New Orleans offers free testing at sites throughout the city.
The only way to be 100 percent safe is to avoid contact with anyone you don’t live with, but we understand that’s not a reasonable expectation for most people. So please, when you do hang out with your friends, mitigate the risks as much as you can. We know it’s hard, but there’s still a deadly pandemic raging. Be careful.