Evan Neilson is a junior studying history. As a campus COVID Wellness Ambassador, he believes in the importance of students coming together to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.
1. It takes a village
While public health is not my area of expertise, I know that it will take a collective effort to keep everyone safe this semester. That is why this semester, I’ll be serving as a COVID Wellness Ambassador, a new position (obviously) meant to educate the student body and community about COVID-19, ensure that everyone is following safety protocols, and spread pertinent information/updates from the university.
When I’m handing out hand sanitizer on the Quad and making sure everyone is wearing their face coverings, I hope that pushes others to hold their friends accountable, and so on. It sounds scary, but all it could take is one person to cause harm in this situation, so everyone has to do their part.
2. It’s up to us
While we are very fortunate to have an amazing testing program and a comprehensive safety plan, that frankly puts a lot pressure on us to succeed in our efforts of controlling the spread of the virus. During my first week on campus, one of my coworkers and I participated in an interview for CBS This Morning to walk them through what getting tested here is like and to offer our perspectives on how it feels to be back, as well as our outlook on the coming year. Clearly, there are a lot of eyes on us. Because of the resources we have at our disposal, we have to lead by example. If we’re able to pull through this semester and stay on campus, that’ll not only provide other universities with a model for success, but it’ll give people some hope that things can get better if we all put in the effort.
3. Mutual respect
As a young adult, it’s easy to feel invincible. You’re living on your own for the first time, so you want to be independent and make your own decisions. Believe me, I totally get that feeling. But as we know, no one is invincible to this virus and some are at a higher risk than others. I have close friends on campus with preexisting conditions and, odds are, everyone else does too. We owe it to them to always be mindful of our choices.
4. It’s simple
Even though epidemiology and medical science are complicated, the solutions we’ve been presented with luckily are not! Staying six feet apart, getting tested twice a week, washing your hands often, and (this is the big one for us) limiting the size of gatherings are all pretty straightforward guidelines. I know this new normal on campus will take some getting used to, but if anyone can do it, it’s my fellow Illini.
5. We all want to be here
We can all agree that the past five months have felt more like five years. From the moment we left campus in March, all I could think about is what it would be like when we go back. The University of Illinois feels like a second home to me, and I want to do all that I can to keep us on campus. I’m sure most others feel the same, so we need to remember: staying on campus is a reward for doing the right things. Unfortunately, we’ve already seen universities struggle to mitigate the spread, and that’s a reminder of how delicate these situations are.
Yes, this semester will be different, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be a good one! Enjoying time with friends, working hard academically, and taking advantage of all the opportunities the university has to offer can all still happen despite these new circumstances. The University of Illinois has always pursued innovation, even through challenging times. With some Illini spirit and some hand sanitizer, we can have another great year.