Spring has sprung, but unlike last year, the ideology of COVID-19 disappearing with the warm weather is no longer present. Despite improved vaccination rollout, the pandemic is still very much alive, and in many parts of the country, cases are still rising.
On March 21, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced that all Michigan residents ages 16 and older will be eligible for the vaccine starting April 5. Citizens ages 16 to 49 with certain medical conditions or disabilities became eligible on Monday. Though it is a positive sign that vaccines are becoming more available, many see this as an opportunity to claim that the pandemic is nearing an end. We do not know this for certain.
Albion College’s strict COVID-19 protocols have ensured that on-campus cases remain low, but the warm weather has prompted temptations to gather without masks. Especially given the success rates of the current vaccines, some people are beginning to see large gatherings as less of a threat.
The surge of tourists vacationing in Florida, as seen on social media, could be a contributing factor to the increased spread of COVID-19 in areas like Fort Myers and Miami. As students from around the country board airplanes and flock to southern states to take advantage of their bars and beaches during their respective spring breaks, they risk travelling with the virus. Even worse, it’s possible that they bring it back to campus and spread it to their community.
According to the CDC, Florida reported more than two million active cases on Monday. Pictures and videos posted on social media depict tightly packed crowds, often containing hundreds of people, gathered in nightclubs, restaurants and town squares. This trend likely could continue through Easter and spring break season as people wish to gather with family and friends.
Although Albion College has chosen to bypass this year’s spring break, it’s unclear how strictly COVID-19 protocols will continue to be enforced. While masks and social distancing can be regulated in classroom and academic settings, other school-sanctioned events aren’t following suit.
Just a few weekends ago, multiple groups of students teamed up to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day. Large groups gathered outside the fraternities, passing frisbees and sharing sandbags in games of cornhole. During volleyball matches, new players constantly rotated in and out. While some were masked, others were not. Based on the amount of people present, it didn’t seem that social distancing was much of an option.
At this point in the pandemic, some might think it unreasonable to put capacity limits on outdoor events and activities, but we should be safe rather than sorry. It is too soon to be undermining a virus that’s infected over 70 million people worldwide, and taken the lives of more than two million.
We should continue to take the threat of COVID-19 seriously despite the promise of vaccines to come. Older populations have achieved immunity through vaccination, but this doesn’t mean that younger people aren’t still at risk. There’s still time in the pandemic for things to get worse before they get better. If young people continue to defy reality, there’s a chance that we could face more setbacks.
We must still be cautious of COVID-19. It won’t vaporize with the warm weather, nor will it vanish once teenagers can be vaccinated. Patience and continued diligence will play huge roles in eradicating the virus. Until everyone has been vaccinated, we should continue to follow pandemic protocols.