Protect those around you: Self-quarantine after break

Coronavirus has monopolized thoughts — and comedy — on campus the last couple of weeks. Memes featuring the virus, affectionately dubbed “corona,” have flooded social media feeds. Students make casual jokes about it as they walk to class. Classes become derailed as professors add their own humor to the fray.

We are a campus holding its breath, but just for the next Massmail to drop the news that classes have been moved to online only. We should be more concerned.

Students should be taking this more seriously. COVID-19, or coronavirus, has already infected over 100,000 people worldwide — nearly 500 in the United States alone — and there are currently 19 confirmed cases in Illinois. This is a serious threat and needs to be treated as such.

Last week, the University emailed students and staff, cautioning us against traveling internationally during Spring Break. The administration even requires that those who do travel to places flagged by the Center for Disease Control as Level 2 and Level 3 at risk for the virus to self-quarantine for at least 14 days upon their return. Admittedly, the University has limited ability to actually enforce this, short of monitoring the locations of the entire student body. (Obviously, it doesn’t have the resources to do this, and even if it did, it would violate several privacy laws.)

With that said, it is the onus of each and every student traveling to an infected area to ensure the safety of those around them by participating in this self-quarantine. Please protect your fellow classmates and be honest. Please. 

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Though COVID-19’s apparent fatality rate is low in healthy people our age, not everyone on campus is in their 20s and not everyone in their 20s has healthy lungs. People with compromised immune systems, older faculty and family members also call campus home. We need to protect them from this disease as well. 

Yes, flights are cheap right now. But they’re cheap for a reason: COVID-19. Many people are scared to travel, and students here should be, too. It’s time for campus to wake up to the reality of coronavirus. It’s contagious, dangerous and has killed thousands already and will probably kill many more before it’s done. 

We are not calling for students to stop traveling. This is a free country, and we have no desire to limit your freedoms. We ask only that, if you travel over spring break (and even if you don’t), you make responsible choices to protect both yourself and those around you. Don’t end up one of the numbers on the WHO map, and don’t let people in your community end up there either.