The rate of positive COVID-19 results in Wisconsin has been steadily rising for weeks, with the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reporting a peak on Oct. 13 with a 20.3 percent positive test rate. Within the state, Appleton is reporting that Outagamie County — which is home to most of Appleton — is among the five Wisconsin counties with the highest positive case rates. Right outside of the Lawrence bubble, community transmission is widespread and rampant.
Given the state of COVID-19 in the areas surrounding campus, it is truly remarkable that cases remain so low at Lawrence, with a positivity rate of less than a half of one percent as of Oct. 14. However, given the widespread transmission of COVID-19 in the Appleton area and the close-knit nature of the Lawrence campus, it will not take much for an outbreak to occur. Once the bubble is contaminated, it will pop — and each of us has the personal responsibility to do everything we can to make sure that does not happen.
Right now, the best way we can do that is to wear our masks, social distance and, most importantly, stay on campus as much as possible. With the rate of positivity so high in the Appleton area, every trip off campus risks bringing COVID-19 into the bubble.
Of course, there are some trips that cannot be avoided. Students may need to venture into Appleton to get medication, buy groceries or go to work. While we urge students in this situation to take every possible precaution, we recognize that leaving campus is sometimes a necessity.
But when it’s not, don’t leave.
The temptation to take a walk down College Avenue to pick up your go-to order at Sal’s or to crank out a paper while sipping on boba at Fika Tea is strong. We can cross campus end-to-end in less than 10 minutes. We spend most of the day studying alone in our individual dorm rooms. And let’s be honest, there’s only so much Commons food we can eat before we hit a breaking point.
But people are counting on us to resist the temptation.
While most of us have a home we can go back to away from Lawrence, that is not a luxury that all students have. If campus has to shut down due to an outbreak, there will be a significant portion of the student population with nowhere to go. We owe it to them to make sure that Lawrence can continue to serve as their home.
At the same time, we also owe it to the high-risk individuals living or working on campus. Although, as college students, most of us are in a fairly low-risk group in terms of complications from COVID-19, we are certainly not beyond risk. Immune disorders, asthma, diabetes and so many other factors can heighten the risk of complications for people our age, and there are plenty of students with these risks living on campus. That doesn’t even consider the many faculty and staff we interact with every day. Any student who brings COVID-19 onto campus risks exposing our professors, our Café and Commons workers, our custodial staff and so many others. That is not a risk we should be willing to take — no matter what.
Even though we’re stuck on campus, there are many enjoyable alternatives students can utilize to get out of their lonely dorm room. In order to stay active, check out the tennis courts or reserve workout spaces in the Wellness Center to get your exercise fix and find some mental clarity. To maintain relationships, schedule small, distanced movie nights with friends in lounges or reach out to your Community Advisor to get involved with activities they have planned. You can even leave your room to study: the library has open study hours six days a week, Warch has opened up parts of the third floor and, as of last week, you can book certain rooms in Warch and other academic buildings for group study sessions.
While this whole situation definitely sucks, to put it eloquently, we are still obligated to each other to reduce exposure and mitigate risk. We have a rare opportunity with our beautiful bubble to remain on campus and not have outbreaks like many other college campuses have experienced. We are obligated to protect this bubble at all costs because, really, protecting the bubble means protecting everyone we love here.
To report a concern about a possible violation of The Pledge, you can call Campus Safety at any time at (920) 832-6999 or fill out the COVID-19 Behavior Concern form. This form can be found on the Lawrence website under the Dean of Students page.
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