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The leaves might be falling, but your mask should stay put

<h6>Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian</h6>
Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

It has been eight months since we were all forced into the safety of our homes to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic. A lot of things have changed since then. On the micro scale, Princeton first-years like me were welcomed into the virtual campus community and have started our journeys, we have met new people along the way, and the leaves have started falling as we welcome fall. On the macro scale, our country is going through an election, a newly appointed Supreme Court justice, and a large-scale reckoning on racial inequality. With all these things that are happening, we must still deal with the one constant affecting our lives: the pandemic is not over yet.

We all wish it were. But it isn’t. It’s still here and as long as we are in this pandemic, we all have a role to play to help ensure the virus is being contained and not affecting our most vulnerable populations.

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President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 recently announced that the University is hopeful that it will be able to bring students back into campus during the spring semester. While this news is hopeful and was greatly received by the student body, the country is still gearing up to enter a third spike in cases during the winter holidays. Now that the flu season has started, more populations are becoming vulnerable to the virus, and it is of utmost importance that we take the necessary precautions to slow its spread.

In the past month or so, I have been noticing that a lot more people are acting laxer than they did in the summer. I’ve seen people without their masks on properly over their noses — or not on their face at all — and large-scale parties ignoring social distancing guidelines. Some people are even out of the loop with the current state of our country with regards to the pandemic, believing that we are getting better when really our rates have become stagnant.

It can be frustrating to have to stay at home, away from the Princeton campus we all long to be at and the friends we miss. Believe me, I know. But that is no excuse to put the lives of several people at risk. And by not adhering to the safety guidelines provided by the professionals, we are pushing back the moment when things can become better.

The coronavirus does not operate under your whims and wishes. The pandemic is not over just because you have had enough of it.

It is not that much of a hassle to ensure you follow these guidelines. Make sure you keep some spare masks with you in your car, purse, or bag. Carry around some hand sanitizer, and maintain a distance around people. And if you do end up being sick of your home and want to see your friends in 3D, plan picnics in open spaces where you can social distance and avoid crowded areas.

I know that looking at Snapchat and Instagram stories where other people seem to be having a blast while not following social distancing guidelines is a great source of FOMO. I am right there with you. But we must continue ploughing on for the sake of our families and our communities. Remember that you are not the only person stuck at home away from friends and fun. For the most part, almost everybody is collectively going through a FOMO phase, so really you are not missing out on much.

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Scientists and other health professionals have made it quite clear that the chance of returning to our “normal” lives is slim. Maybe the whole point of the pandemic is that our past normal wasn’t sustainable, so we have received a chance to recreate a new model. This is our new normal, and we must all come together to make it a normal we are all content with. This could take a long time, but it is never too late to start.

So go ahead, wear that mask, social distance, put on a turtleneck, and continue to save your loved ones and others around you. And if you need any inspiration, remember that the more care you take in responding to this pandemic, the sooner we can all get back to campus.

Alaina Joby is a first-year from Los Angeles, Calif. where the leaves have not started falling yet. She can be reached at ajoby@princeton.edu.

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