OPINION: COVID-19 control is everyone’s responsibility

At the Nigh on Wednesday, a Vista photographer captured a blatant disregard and consideration for the guidelines to slow the spread of COVID-19 at the University of Central Oklahoma. There was also a lack of enforcement. 

Why would the university not fervently act to keep campus open as long as possible? It wasn’t a one-time incident, similar sights could be seen if you walked through at other times.

There will be a continued effort to monitor behavior and the seating area has been altered to accommodate social distancing rules, Vice President for Communications and Public Affairs Adrienne Nobles stated in an email Monday.

As school started, The Vista provided detailed information for students on the COVID-19 policies, face mask punishment and the COVID-19 testing.

While we may have a professional responsibility to campus safety, COVID-19 safety is personal. By not effectively following the rules, it furthers the longevity of the virus. The decision to not wear a mask  with your nose and mouth both covered, or not to socially distance, directly impacts people.

For example, my infant daughter has not been held by or even met her grandparents. There are faculty members who have to weigh teaching versus visiting or caring for elderly parents. The decision by society to continue as if nothing is different has prolonged loved ones being apart.

UCO and its community have an obligation to return with an impassioned attitude to remain as safe as possible for each other, our friends and families.

It’s already a running joke, “I doubt we’ll make it to the middle of September.” No one seems to believe the school will remain open. Are we just running out the clock until our next shut down?

Some students are arguing if the coronavirus safety signs don’t spell out every behavior, that they don’t apply. Do those signs show noses being covered? This despite pretty extensive publication of information that both noses and mouths need covered and social distancing needs followed.

You shouldn’t feel “normal” or “safe” in a shared indoor space during a global pandemic.

In addition to the Nigh, there were also concerns about the Student Involvement Fair, where tables were reportedly not always 6 feet apart and those inquiring about involvement were a table width apart from those providing group information.

Even in classes where the capacity is cut in half, some students are sitting at each end of a table, but the person in front of or behind them is closer to 3 to 4 feet away. It’s simply difficult to distance more in the rooms. 

Professor Sandy Martin begins her Strategic Communications Planning class. The University of Central Oklahoma provides new safety procedures for staff and students for the 2020 school year to avoid a growth in the recent COVID-19 outbreak. (Cici Simon/The Vista)

Outdoor activities also need to be 6 feet apart, whether or not masks are being used. These are the only effective ways to truly stop the spread of the virus. As you can see in the UCO football tweet, this is not considered “social distancing” under standard CDC recommendations.

Some people think masks mean they can be next to each other, as OU Medicine notes, this is not OK:

“Cloth masks are an additional safety measure to reduce the spread of COVID-19. The CDC still recommends keeping a distance of at least six feet, as well as frequent hand washing and other preventative actions.”

If the mask mandate is followed all day, except lunchtime, what’s the point? If you can’t socially distance within a space, should the space be open? Yet, students need someplace to eat on campus.

If you do not want to wear a mask or do not feel safe attending in-person classes, you may still be able to transition to the extended classroom if a class you are currently enrolled in has one, according to Nobles.

The last day to enroll in a class was Sunday.

“All this aside, it is also the responsibility of the individual to practice social distancing. We get it – it’s tough. We’ve done what we can to encourage it, but if you enter a space where you see it will be difficult for you to maintain social distancing, go someplace else. Making good decisions regarding social distancing and mask wearing on campus and off campus helps reduce opportunities for the virus to spread among our community,” Nobles said.

Nobles stated: “As of Wednesday last week, we only had one complaint formally filed. For all of those who are getting it right, THANK YOU! Remember to mask up when around others on campus, wash up for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer, and wipe up your desk space in class with provided disinfecting materials.”

Every time restrictions are lifted or interactions increase in Oklahoma county, it takes about two weeks to see the difference in the number of infections. One week is not enough to declare success.

The coronavirus does not discriminate. It does not see race, religion or politics. It kills with impunity.

If you want to take a risk — and that’s what it is, a risk — and physically attend classes in-person, you have a responsibility to yourself and others to adhere to UCO guidelines at all times.

This article was updated at 2:13 a.m. 09/23/2020.

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