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Photo of one of UMBC's dormitory buildings, Potomac Hall, taken from The Retriever's archives.

UMBC students, the health and safety of our community now rests in your hands

Editor’s note: This article has been updated to clarify that there are now 22 cumulative coronavirus cases at UMBC, with a 91.7% quarantine bed availability and 100% isolation bed availability on campus.

Despite the fact that the University of Maryland, Baltimore County has implemented several new coronavirus guidelines to ensure the safety of its community, as a desk receptionist at Potomac Hall, I have already noticed some students defying some of these rules and regulations.

This includes students sitting in large groups at marked-off tables while not wearing masks, forgetting to wear masks in residential halls and around campus, attempting to bring non-residential guests into their rooms and, even more frightening, I have seen evidence of students attending off-campus parties. 

With several universities experiencing a surge in COVID-19 cases and subsequently reclosing in the last few weeks, this behavior from our students is deeply concerning. As it stands, UMBC has done, and is doing, everything in its power to create and maintain a safe learning environment, and now it is the responsibility of the students on campus to do the same. 

Currently there are only 22 cumulative coronavirus cases, 17 students and 5 faculty and staff members, who have tested positive for the coronavirus, reflecting a 91.7% quarantine bed availability and 100% isolation bed availability on campus. However, given some students’ flagrant disregard for these guidelines, I worry that the second wave of covid-19 testing conducted this past week (Sept. 8-10) will reveal a significant rise in cases from the previous results. 

I too relate to the desire for normalcy, for things to return to the way they once were. But as a student who lives in the on-campus apartments, I can also see how the rules and regulations set forth by the school are helping to keep our community safe. 

When students ignore the rules specifically designed to keep me, my coworkers and especially themselves protected, it shows blatant disrespect to everyone who has and is still working indefatigably to make this semester happen, even with our university’s limited operating capacity.  

While it may be difficult or inconvenient to abide by these rules, not doing so is directly affecting yourself and those around you. 

Many of us tend to believe that we are different and that the rules don’t apply to us, but you are not the exception. This faulty thought process benefits no one; it only makes you a health hazard and complicit in creating an unsafe environment that jeopardizes everyone’s well-being. And during this global pandemic, that is simply not an atmosphere UMBC can afford to foster.

I urge my fellow students of all ages and studies to make a concerted effort to get through the remaining months of this semester so that we can all safely return home to our families, and hopefully bring this pandemic to a timelier end. This means practicing social distancing, wearing a face mask in public, including residential areas that aren’t your room, not bringing non-residential guests into your rooms and, most importantly, avoiding large gatherings — no matter how tempting they may be. 

The normalcy and function of this semi-in-person semester hangs in a very precarious balance. If we ever wish to return to a more concrete and in-person campus, it is the responsibility of students to comply with these new regulations to keep our community safe. 

Written by Scott A. Hart, Visual Arts: Animation Concentration B.A. major and Entrepreneurship minor, Class of 2021