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Our college towns are the backdrops for so many pivotal moments in our lives. They see and guide us through classes, career choices, friendships, opportunities, love, heartbreak and self-discovery. Blacksburg, Virginia, has become a second home to me. The kindness and excitement residents have for Virginia Tech students is one of the best parts about coming here. 

Now that we are back in Blacksburg, and college students are returning to campuses across the nation, our college towns are at risk. I’ve seen the carefree attitude most college students have firsthand, whether it’s playing sports in quads by dorms or going downtown for the bars or restaurants, there is a veil of false security. We are not out of COVID-19’s reach just because we are young. In a briefing, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Dr. Anthony Fauci spoke to the danger the coronavirus is for young people, “In individuals who are young and otherwise healthy, who don't require hospitalization but do get sick and symptomatic enough to be in bed for a week or two or three and then get better, they clear the virus -- they have residual symptoms for weeks and sometimes months”. This notion that we are invincible to the disease is foolish. Your health and the health of others is not worth a night downtown or party. 

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Not only are we at risk by coming back to campus, but so are the communities that have supported us since freshman year. We can be asymptomatic carriers of the virus, and when we ignore social distancing or don’t wear masks, we infect so many others. Dr. Takeshi Kasai, Western Pacific director of the World Health Organization, stated in a news briefing, “As my colleague reported—the epidemic is changing: people in their 20s, 30s and 40s are increasingly driving its spread. Many are unaware they’re infected—with very mild symptoms or none at all. It can result in them unknowingly passing on the virus to others”. Our return to our college towns is a threat to the safety of the community.

College towns are not our playgrounds. Blacksburg is also home for the elderly, children, and adults who reside here 365 days of the year. Now is not the time to resume “normal” life. Coming to campus is not an escape from COVID-19. Local hospitals are not prepared for massive outbreaks. The communities we have found a second home in need protection, and that’s on us to provide as much as we can by following the guidelines. Please don’t return to your college town unless necessary. Stay 6-feet apart from others. Wear a mask at all times when in public. Wash your hands. Get tested and quarantine if you were exposed or feel sick. We need to be giving back the same love and kindness that our college towns have given us.

Jessica Mardian

Virginia Tech '21

Jessica is a senior at Virginia Tech, double majoring in Creative Writing and Multimedia Journalism. 
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