Governor Whitmer is planning to give the green light to restaurants on February 1st to begin indoor dining again among other lifted restrictions. A friend reached out to me asking if I wanted to hang out next week because of it. In September, I would have jumped at the chance to see some of my closest friends and feel some sense of normalcy. However, this time around I won’t be going anywhere.
Each time guidelines were slightly lifted, I would feel hopeful that we were coming to the end of COVID in our area. Over the summer, I was particularly excited to return to campus because the numbers had been so low that things were looking up. Disappointment followed. Numbers would go up again, along with hospitalizations, and restrictions would return. I refuse to participate in this cycle anymore. I’ve told my friends that I wouldn’t be hanging out with them until I’m vaccinated or cases are below 500 people a day. I have shifted to using online grocery ordering and I wear two masks for a combined 5 layers of protection, even when I’m at the gym. I no longer trust even the generally liberal Ann Arbor and UMichigan community to take the proper precautions to help keep me safe.
The B.1.1.7 variant is in Washtenaw county and statewide COVID-19 cases remain around 2,000 per day. Washtenaw county and UMichigan have recommended that students follow strict precautions to lower the chance of infection. When I received their email, I shook my head. I have been following those recommendations and even stricter ones, since November. I also know their recommendations aren’t going to have the effect they intend. First, they’re only recommendations. Second, there is no true enforcement mechanism because they aren’t mandatory. Third, they are practices that most people should be following anyways. Students will continue to do what they think is best and COVID will continue to spread.
I don’t know the student athlete who brought the B 1.1.7 variant to Ann Arbor, nor do I understand what student-athletes who have dedicated much of their lives to their sport are going through. This is not an article meant to shame those individuals. But, I am frustrated that the university’s need to keep athletics going contributed to the variant being brought here and spread through the community. We have known about the U.K. variant since September; we have known that the risk was high for anyone who travelled from the U.K. to the U.S. It’s yet another instance of us knowing what we shouldn’t do, an individual taking the risk for themselves, and then the rest of us having to pay the price. Frankly, this has been the worst group project I’ve ever been a member of, and one time I had to read a 60 page art history catalogue and write a 5 page essay on my own because my project partner “wanted to spend more time with his family.”