By Emma McDermott | Image by Fred Perticucci

On August 16, Colorado College quarantined all current Loomis Hall residents after discovering that enhanced social distancing protocols were not followed, and students may have been exposed to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19. This news drew strong reactions from members of the CC community and even garnered the attention of CNN and The New York Times.

There are undoubtedly many opinions on if and how students should return to school across the United States. The White House has fervently encouraged all schools to reopen while many teachers, parents, students and medical experts across the country hesitate to return to in-person learning out of fear that it will lead to increasing the spread of the coronavirus.

Loomis Hall houses mostly first-year students, who spend 23 hours a day inside the unairconditioned dorm. Although CC has provided each individual with a fan and can deliver ice upon request, residents have expressed that it’s not enough to cope with the high temperatures that Colorado Springs sees in August – often reaching high 80s and low 90s for days on end. Residents are allowed one hour of outdoor time each day, during which they are required to stay within marked social-distanced boundaries.

According to a Loomis resident whose name will remain confidential, all meals for the day are delivered at noon and are not satisfactory, so the student often eats ramen or mac and cheese instead. The student said that individuals who did not adhere to enhanced social distancing protocols and may have been exposed to the virus are most at fault for the Loomis quarantine, but also that CC should have made clearer the exact consequences for infractions. Many Loomis residents did adhere to CC rules, the student explained, and are frustrated that they must also quarantine despite respecting protocols and testing negative for COVID-19.

I cannot imagine what Loomis residents are going through, as leaving home and moving to college is a difficult transition for most kids even under the most normal of circumstances. Starting college should be a time when students meet new people, build friendships, explore their new home, and become more independent, the exact opposite of a 14-day Netflix marathon. Here, CC is in a tough position because the health and safety of our community must be prioritized, but that means other parts of the CC experience will be sacrificed.

In my opinion, the college made the right decision to quarantine the entire Loomis dorm, painful as it is for those experiencing it. The United States is not nearly prepared with the unified leadership, stoicism, ability to sacrifice for the greater good, or basic intelligence that is necessary to safely reopen the country at this time. Next time you’re on the highway, notice how many drivers cut other cars off, speed past you on the right side, look at their phones, and don’t signal to change lanes if you want to see what I’m talking about. People make selfish and risky decisions all the time; the way Americans deal with the coronavirus is and will continue to be no different.

If we want any shot at being on campus and having anything resembling a normal year of college, we must expect that what happened to Loomis will continue to happen. As great as the CC community is – and I think it tends to be more thoughtful, respectful and aware of the consequences of its actions than much of the country – it doesn’t change the fact that people make impulsive choices even when they know they can harm others.

We have the chance to go back to a place that’s so special to so many of us. We know that this academic year will be like none we’ve ever experienced before. If CC has to air toward extreme caution, like it did by quarantining Loomis Hall, for us to even try returning to campus, we must meet them halfway. At this point, social life as we knew it before the pandemic is out of the question, but we still have the chance to make something out of this year if we act with common sense and empathy.

This means we must support each other through the inevitable ups and downs this academic year will bring. Instead of assuming the worst about others and their intentions, members of our community need to act with patience and understanding. As frustrating as a dorm quarantine is, we need to not equate a person’s selfish and risky actions with the entirety of their character. That’s a dangerous path to go down and it won’t stop people from making stupid choices, only from being honest.

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