Accountability, Labor Day in the age of COVID

Opinion by Connor Ciecko

As we approach this long weekend, it’s critical that we do so with an abundance of caution. According to testing data from the University of Illinois, about a thousand people on campus have tested positive for the coronavirus, with 95% of those cases being students.

This past weekend, the University Police Department had over 100 calls about unlawful gatherings, two students were suspended for breaking university safety guidelines, a fraternity is being disciplined for a party and 100 individuals are being disciplined for attending or hosting gatherings. Because of this and the unanticipated rise in cases, Chancellor Jones and the university are now enforcing a soft lockdown for the next two weeks in an effort to undo the public health damage that has been done. Jones is calling on students to “limit your [sic] in-person activities only to essentials like twice weekly COVID-19 tests, attending class, purchasing groceries and food, going to work, engaging in individual outdoor activity, attending religious services and seeking medical attention” or else face punitive action from the university.

The campus SHIELD testing program was revolutionary. Limiting building access with the Safer Illinois allowed for accountability. But that accountability only extends so far when students are blatantly and flagrantly breaking the rules for their own gain. A handful of people have reportedly been avoiding or breaking quarantine and continuing to be in public and socialize.

These next two weeks will determine the trajectory of the entire rest of the semester. If the rules aren’t followed, then we go back to how things were in the spring. Entirely online instruction, limited access to campus resources and the express potential to open the floodgates of the pandemic into the greater community. This message has been stated and stressed across the board, but continues to be ignored by a small handful of people whose own selfish impulses will ruin the semester for the entire campus community.

It is with this preface that I place my ultimate ask: please, for the love of all of us, do not party for the next two weeks. It costs nothing to stay inside. Literally, nothing. Heck, you’d probably save money. Labor day is a day off of school and historically that means another opportunity to throw your own “Project X” scale rager, but now is not the time. Consider the greater community for even an attosecond. Protect those who are the most at risk, like service workers and university employees. Champaign is not some isolated vacation home. Peoples’ lives are rooted here, and peoples’ lives are directly affected by your actions.

If you want to stay on campus, act like it.