Social distancing…social distancing…social distancing…that’s the singular phrase I have heard constantly these past few months. Beginning in April, federal and local governments issued guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, and on April 13, 2020, Dean Dunn announced Millsaps’s plan to extend spring break and to transition classes online for what turned into the remainder of the semester. The College’s plan of action to protect students, faculty, and staff from the Coronavirus was made to be as painless as possible.
This is not to say that it was easy. Technology, much like people, is not perfect and not all students have access to the materials necessary for remote courses. However, professors and administration alike have been more than understanding and accommodating during these trying times. It is important to remember that they, like us, are equally affected by the struggles that have resulted from the virus.
Being at home and practicing social distancing for multiple months is not easy, but it is necessary. As of June 23, 2020, the CDC has reported over 2 million cases of Covid-19 in the United States alone, with over 120,000 of those cases resulting in death. With no vaccine, the CDC advises that the best way to prevent the illness is to avoid being exposed. The most effective way to avoid exposure and to avoid exposing others is to quarantine within your home. One should only leave the house and venture into public for necessities—work (for those that still have jobs), groceries, toilet paper (what’s left of it), etc. If you must leave your house, wear a mask, remain six-feet apart, and “social-distance.”
Here in Louisiana, Governor John Bell Edwards declared a stay at home order on March 22, 2020. Slidell, the city where I live, enacted a mandatory curfew from 11pm-5am. For a moment, it seemed that most people were committed to quarantining and reducing the spread of the virus—for a moment. Not long after many states enacted stay at home orders, people began to complain. I am not exempt from this group—this July I would have been in Italy, London, and Ireland with Millsaps’s study abroad program. Unfortunately, that won’t happen and yes, it is upsetting. I worked hard and was awarded a Robinson Scholarship that would pay for my classes abroad. I paid for my passport and I was ready to book my flight, then…the virus happened.
To add insult to injury, the Millsaps Mock-Trial Team, which I am a part of, made it to the Opening Round National Championship this year which was supposed to take place the weekend of March 20, the week we were to return from spring break. The countless hours of hard work the team put into practicing was all for naught, and while I will (hopefully) be able to compete next year, the seniors on the team will never get to experience these moments again. Missing out on these things, to put it plainly, sucks.
However, my personal feelings have no bearing on my behavior in response to the coronavirus, and neither should yours. These complaints and protests quarantining are selfish and dangerous, and they have led local governments to rush their initial response to the virus. The city of Slidell lifted its original curfew not even two weeks after it was enacted because of complaints from citizens. On May 15, 2020, Governor John Bel Edwards lifted the stay at home order for the state of Louisiana even though the virus is still spreading, and people are still dying.
Those most at risk for contracting the virus, “vulnerable populations,” are older adults and people with underlying conditions. According to the CDC, 8 out of 10 deaths reported in the U.S. have been in adults 65 years and older. Maybe your life isn’t at risk if you contract the virus, but your grandparent’s lives are. Those who are immunosuppressed represent another portion of people more likely to die from the virus. My mom has lupus, a systemic autoimmune disease, and she could die from contracting a common cold, let alone the coronavirus. Essential workers, from healthcare professionals to Walmart cashiers, are more at risk the less that citizens practice social distancing. If by some chance, there is no one you care about whose life is at risk from the virus, then stay at home because it is the right thing to do—your boredom is not worth anyone’s life.
Summer is here and that is made clear by the numerous Instagram pictures of people at the beach—some of those Millsaps’s students. I have seen Snapchat stories of groups of friends at dinner and parties without wearing masks, without being six feet apart. As a student, I want to be on Millsaps’s campus come August. I want to be in a classroom with Professors and friends that I miss. The only way to lessen the likelihood of remote classes in the fall is to lessen the spread of the Coronavirus.
STAY AT HOME.
Staying in the house for days on end, let alone weeks and months, can be a lot to handle. However, there are ways to combat the daily boredom that comes with quarantine. TV shows and movies have been my main source of entertainment these past couple of months. If you didn’t watch the greatest animated series of all time, Avatar: The Last Airbender, when you were younger, now is the time to do it. It was recently added to Netflix and is a great way to take up a few weeks of your time—a few days if you’re like me.
Quarantine is hard. Here’s a Q&A with Marnesha Atkins, rising senior-Psychology major, James Riley, rising sophomore-Government and Politics Major, and Dr. Kristen Golden, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Peace and Justice Studies on how they spend their time at home:
Are there any activities that you partake in to remain active while social distancing?
I have been doing showtime’s 30-day challenge at home workouts. Confession: I take more rest days than allowed. (Instagram: show.timefitness) -Marz
Fishing is something I’ve learned to enjoy recently. -James
Most afternoons I hop on my old bike and ride around. Within 10 minutes I feel great. After hours indoors, the wind on my face, the sounds of birds calling and bug chatter, and leaves in surrounding trees that sometimes seem to be waving, refresh me. Works every time. -Dr. Golden
What’s one book you’d recommend that everyone read now that most of us have ample free time?
Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge -Marz
The Splendid and the Vile, a historical novel about Winston Churchill’s leadership during crises, which is probably relevant today -James
My favorite read this year is The Overstory by Richard Powers. My favorite book last year was Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. Both are masterful with characters I came to love facing challenges that define our times. -Dr. Golden
Is there any show or movie you’ve recently watched/binged that you enjoyed and would recommend to others?
I binge watched season 2 of Money Heist, a great Netflix series, and I was not disappointed. It’s a great show with some pretty interesting characters who you oddly grow attached to as their story unfolds throughout the series. Although they are by definition “criminals” they have an interesting political agenda that ultimately exposes the corrupt actions of government officials. Sound familiar? -Marz
Outer Banks, because I’m basic. -James
The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt; Friday Night Lights. -Dr. Golden
Finally, do you have any words of wisdom or encouragement to share with the Millsaps community during these trying times?
I think now is the perfect time to find your purpose and self-reflect on where you want to be in the next day, week, month, or year from now. With the COVID-19 pandemic and current protests against police brutality and racism it’s time to do some soul searching and become enlightened and be the change you want to see. -Marz
Because stress is a natural reaction to events that are out of our control, I would say try to stay in touch with friends and family and get some sunlight/enjoy nature if possible. -James
Some of you may have summer work or family caregiving activities, and I encourage carving out time for self-care (zooming with friends, exercise, meditation). If you’ve got wide-open days, I think finding purposeful activity in a loosely planned manner is really important. From creating art, or videos, or yummy food, to in/outdoor exercise adventure, or volunteering with your faith group, or for a cause you care about, there are tons of ways to meaningfully structure a day and some of them will make you connect to others— total bonus! Overall, I think setting goals for self-care or daily structure is a good idea so there can be a challenge and felt sense of purpose. -Dr. Golden
Though necessary, these times can be stressful, anxiety-inducing, and downright lonely. While the Millsaps College Counseling Center is closed for the summer, if you need counseling, they can help to find a therapist in your area or offer check-ins. For assistance, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org and they will be happy to help you.