Students need to keep following COVID-19 restrictions

A+mask+on+the+ground+of+NIUs+campus.

Northern Star File Photo

A mask on the ground of NIU’s campus.

Parker Otto, Columnist

One of the more awkward elements of dorm living, especially in a pandemic, is suppressing my social side. Whenever I see one of my fellow residents walking by, I want to say to them in my energetic way, “Hiya, how are you?” But between the mask-wearing and the body language of most residents, I can tell they’re not in the mood. But last week, I saw a student in the hallway walking by without a mask. As if the last 20 months of hardship had never occurred. 

Last week, there were 34 positive cases of COVID-19 among students, 27 the week before, according to the Campus COVID dashboard. These are the most positive cases we’ve seen since the week of Sept. 13. After 20 months of pandemic living, it seems tempting to abandon mask wearing and social distancing. But we need to buckle down or risk potentially shutting down in-person classes.

To do so is fairly simple and requires practicing the Protecting the Pack initiative. Wear a mask, keep up hygienic practices and, if you are eligible, get a COVID-19 booster shot. As effective as these vaccines and boosters are, they’re not completely foolproof. Only through all of us doing our part can we hope to return to the abstract concept of normalcy. 

So many Americans are acting as though the pandemic is over. It’s not. With winter coming, NIU students will be spending more time indoors. If mask regulations aren’t being followed at a university, this could create an environment that COVID-19 could thrive in, especially variants of the virus. 

If the positivity rate of NIU goes over 8%, then the university will revert back to online classes. While we’ve never gone over 2%, I don’t want to see how far we can push it. 

This information isn’t meant to scaremonger. It’s meant to remind us of the reality our country faces. And I sincerely understand the frustration some have with having to wear masks. But we must comprehend that not everywhere is like NIU, where vaccination is required for students taking in-person classes with exceptions only for medical or religious reasons. Many students will be going home for Thanksgiving and winter break and the last thing anyone wants is to unknowingly infect a relative. 

This recklessness can also affect DeKalb. DeKalb County is only 49.94% vaccinated, according to a Northern Star article. While those who are unvaccinated should get one if able, we as students also have a responsibility to protect others. 

Many students at NIU came here straight out of high school as teenagers wanting to develop into adults. The simple fact is being an adult often means doing things that you can’t stand for the sake of the collective. Without individual responsibility, we cannot thrive as a whole. 

I wish I could tell you when we can declare this pandemic to be over. I wish I knew when we can truly go back to normal. I wish I didn’t have to wear a mask every time I left my dorm room to use the restroom or wash a dish. But we have to keep this up. Otherwise, we have no hope of ever escaping COVID-19. So stay safe. Stay smart. For the time being, we must stay masked.