Last Monday, the Oxford Board of Aldermen decided to implement an outdoor mask mandate that requires patrons to wear masks outdoors when social distancing is not possible — including while standing in lines for bars on the Square. This was the right call. This decision came after photos of young people in massive lines outside of the bars were posted on social media and sent to Mayor Robyn Tannehill, along with a slight increase in cases.
Some young people believe that they are invincible and that COVID-19 will not be able to touch them, which is partially true. People between the ages of 18 and 29 only have a mortality rate of 0.5%. However, the main issue is that these young people who are infected with the virus will indirectly or directly infect older and more-at-risk patients who have a much higher mortality rate.
The older a person is, the higher their risk of death. People over the age of 50 have a 20% COVID mortality rate, which progressively jumps by age group up to 32.1% for individuals over the age of 85. Oxford is a certified retirement community, and over 10% of its residents are above the age of 55. A lot of our professors are middle-aged, and we also go to necessary places such as the grocery store and doctors’ offices. College students do not only interact with other college students, even in a college town. We all interact with each other, even in the most indirect of ways.
Unfortunately, the long bar lines are just the beginning of Oxford’s COVID-19 problems. I live in a small condo complex that has mostly student residents. The neighbors next to us like to throw loud parties with tons of people late at night; I joke with my roommates, calling them “COVID parties.” I know for a fact that this is not an isolated incident, and fellow college students are engaging in socially irresponsible behavior during this pandemic.
There’s no denying that the return from winter break has most likely contributed to the slight uptick in cases in Lafayette County. As of October, social gatherings are limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outdoors, but that does not stop the flow of maskless parties with 20+ people in attendance on my Instagram feed. We shouldn’t be surprised that young people are continuing to act irresponsibly, but this doesn’t make it right.
We are going on almost an entire tedious, stressful year of the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions and lockdowns have been hard for all of us to bear, but we must keep in mind that when we practice socially responsible behavior, including wearing masks and social distancing, the pandemic will come to an end a lot sooner. We should be grateful that there is a vaccine for the virus, and hopefully, the end is in sight if we take precautions now.
Helen Claire McNulty is a senior biology major from Holland, Mich., and West Palm Beach, Fla.