COVID narrative puts high-risk groups in jeopardy

Hannah Groetsch

Contributing Writer

 

I have asthma and my dad is an immunosuppressed doctor, so the past seven months have been stressful to say the least. While I’m very privileged that my family hasn’t felt the worst effects of this pandemic, I’m in a higher risk category for COVID-19 which is why I’m writing this from my bedroom in Washington State instead of Old Main.

I miss Old Main. I miss many things about Wooster — the people mostly, and I might even miss the bats. When I flew home for spring break, Seattle was still ground zero of the pandemic and I joked that I would somehow get stuck in Washington while everyone else returned to campus. In a very roundabout way, I was correct. I have been very much stuck at home, which I say not for pity, but to highlight that for many people there is no “return to normal” until the pandemic is controlled, which right now it’s not. As I write this, case counts are climbing, campus is locking down for a week and those in the White House who are supposed to be helping us are battling their own outbreak caused by their negligence.

That hurts. The isolation and disruption COVID-19 has caused has been as difficult for me as it has been for others, but something I wasn’t prepared for was the hurt and anger I have toward other people and our leaders for being so cavalier about this virus and those at highest risk. This spring, people in high-risk categories had to listen to a discussion about whether we should be sacrificed for the stock market — whether our deaths were really that big of a loss. How we should just stay home while everyone else completely “returns to normal,” neglecting the fact that high-risk people are also essential workers and that other household members can spread it to them.

These past months I’ve been reminded of a quote from a Philip Larkin poem that goes, “We should be careful/ Of each other, we should be kind/ While there is still time.” Don’t get me wrong, I have seen immense care displayed during this time both personally and generally, but the lack of care I’ve also seen puts me and the people I love at risk. I’ve seen too many people who are either ignorant or unbothered about the fact that their actions impact others. I’ve seen too many bad excuses and people arguing that they’re not high-risk, so why should they care.

Whenever I hear about a big party or news of a state reopening even as cases rise, I get angrier. When I see articles like the one describing a Maine wedding that caused the deaths of seven people not even in attendance, I get a bit sadder. This desperate quest to pretend things are fine is killing people. I don’t have the luxury of pretending everything is fine when my lungs are already bad at breathing. Instead, I grow increasingly tired of staying home and hearing that high-risk people are expendable. I’m tired of people flaunting rules that I don’t have the privilege of breaking while my family makes plans for what to do if my dad’s clinic has an outbreak.  

I can’t wait to come back to Wooster, hug my friends, sit in Old Main and get back to a normal that everyone can safely participate in. But to do that, Wooster needs to do its best to stop the spread of the virus, and our government and all Americans need to take this more seriously and be more mindful of how we talk about at-risk groups. Above all, we must be careful for each other. We must be kind while there is still time.

Sportlight

Matt Olszewski

Senior Sports Writer

 

On Saturday, Oct. 17, President Sarah Bolton announced that the College would be changing to remote learning for the rest of the semester, and that all athletic practices would be cancelled. Amidst all of this stress and chaos on and off campus regarding COVID-19, it is important to remember the accomplishments of athletes that have excelled on and off the field. Ashley Boersma ’21, a women’s lacrosse player, is one of those athletes. Boersma is from Ada, Mich., and plays midfielder for the College’s women’s lacrosse team.

Before entering college, Boersma was selected as an United States Lacrosse All-Academic as a junior and senior in high school. She also earned a varsity letter in basketball, cross country, lacrosse and volleyball. As a first year, Boersma played in fifteen games, starting in seven of them. She was one of the nine Fighting Scots to score goals in the double digits.

As a sophomore, she ranked in the top fifteen in the whole NCAC for goals (41), points (57) and draw controls (46). She was one of eight Scots with at least 20 goals, and she was also named to the NCAC Academic Honor Roll.

Last season — her junior year — all spring sports teams had their season cut short in March due to COVID-19, but Boersma still thrived on and off the field. She started in all five games for the Fighting Scots, led the team with 20 points, eight assists and scored twelve goals throughout the brief season. She was also named to the NCAC Academic Honor Roll for a third time in her college career.

This past summer, Boersma, like many others, unfortunately experienced a change in her original plans. “I had an internship lined up at a neuro rehabilitation center, but mine, like many others, got canceled so I helped my family with many home renovations that have been on our “to-do” list,” she said.

Now, as a senior, she is currently working on her Independent Study (I.S.). “My I.S. investigates whether there are differences in first and second language working memory capacities and if there is a correlation between working memory capacity and the developmental period in which one acquires a second language,” she said. “In school, I grew up learning Spanish and English at the same time, and I have always been interested in the advantages of bilingualism.”

Boersma was also asked about a few things Wooster-related. Her favorite place on campus is Knowlton Café, as she loves hanging with friends, getting something to eat or drink and doing homework there. She was also asked about her favorite thing at Wooster,. “I love the people and the feeling of community I get while walking through campus. I am thankful for having a strong support system on and off the field.”

Lastly, a fun fact about Boersma is that she has a twin sister, and her younger brothers are also twins!

Friends can’t disagree over human rights

James Dwyer

Contributing Writer

 

The United States presidential election is in less than a month. This is one of the most tumultuous and irritating election seasons in decades. If we are truly honest with ourselves, I doubt any of us anticipated it being anything other than downright hostile. 

This election cycle involves two extremely polarizing figures: Donald J. Trump and Joe Biden. Neither has a very honorable record. One candidate holds his history over his head like a prize, leering at everyone over his “victory.” The other candidate acknowledges his history, and has built his platform on improving. Which candidate is which depends on with whom you are talking. 

The recent debate consisted of Biden and Trump attempting to make their political arguments. This is a key part of debating, and the reason most people tune in. What is not a key part of debating was Trump interrupting whenever Biden opened his mouth. The frustration felt by debate viewers as it slowly devolved into sandbox insults was universal. I watched it live, sitting with my friends in front of a small TV in a hot dorm room. We felt the tension in the room as we held hands, eyes glued to the screen, stress-eating gummy worms from the C-Store. This was not just a debate. This was not just the future of our country. This was the future of us. What will happen to us is contingent on these debates — and who ends up victorious. 

I am a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many of my friends are as well. I have friends from many diverse backgrounds. Several of my friends belong to racial and ethnic minority groups. This debate blatantly yelled at us that not only are we so undervalued that we’re demoted to topics in a shoddily-moderated debate, but that we are not even worth defending  when our livelihoods are hanging in the balance. Donald Trump is clearly not on our side. He isn’t even on his own supporters’ sides. This debate only reinforced that with his lies. We know you don’t care, President Trump. At least acknowledge our dignity and give us the truth. But I know he won’t, and so do the people who see him for what he is. 

Most people used to claim that politics were not something to lose friends over. They would claim politics weren’t a deciding factor in relationships, and that it wasn’t an important thing to focus on. I highly disagree. The first debate between Biden and Trump has shown one thing to be abundantly clear: this was not a debate over politics. It was an argument over human rights. I do not care what your definition of politics is; the American political landscape is a thinly-veiled fight over who is entitled to constitutional rights listed in the document that is the backbone of our nation. At this point, everyone knows what Trump has done while in office. The question is not, “Can he save our nation?” as posed in the debate. The question is, “Who will make excuses four years later?”

 

Beyond fabric: Kindness through fiber arts

Allison Ringold

Staff Writer

 

In an age when machines are the norm, it’s not uncommon to think of the fiber arts as old-fashioned. Although the practices of knitting, crocheting, basket weaving, etc. have been around for centuries, they are more relevant now than ever.

While many are suffering because of the current global pandemic, Knot Another Fiber Arts Society (KAFAS) is continuously finding ways to help those in need. According to Community Service Coordinator Maud Bulman ’23, KAFAS is “currently crafting items to be donated to a church downtown, who will see that our items make it to those who need warm items such as Afghans, hats, scarves and mittens. We are also collaborating with International Student Services to provide handmade hats, scarfs, mittens, etc. to the Winter Coat Drive this year.” Additionally, Bulman noted that “all collected items are to be quarantined in a bag from three days to a week, and all items will be washed prior to donation” in order to keep recipients safe.

KAFAS isn’t new to community service. “As community service coordinator I look for projects where our work can benefit other people, rather than only creating things for ourselves. Fiber arts has everything to do with community service because as artists, we have the ability to create things that benefit other people,” explained Bulman.

However, the fiber arts are about more than just community service. KAFAS President Diane Tierney ’21 is a seasoned fiber arts creator. “My introduction to fiber arts was my mother’s attempt to make her only child stop driving her crazy on a rainy weekend in third grade. She sat me down in the living room and taught me how to knit, with a library cassette tape audiobook playing in the background,” she remembered. “Recently in the past couple of years, I have begun to broaden my scope to needlepoint, crochet, basketry, spinning and weaving.”

As demonstrated by Tierney and Bulman, KAFAS has proven to be as modern as the current pandemic. In a world in which most goods are mass-produced by machines, KAFAS teaches the campus community what some handmade art and a little kindness can really do.

Debate fails to inform voters

Elyse Evans

Contributing Writer

 

Picture this: It’s a Tuesday night in late September, and you sit down with your roommates to watch the first 2020 presidential debate between President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. If you were one of the unlucky people who had to experience this exact scenario, I am so sorry. Additionally, if you somehow forced yourself to watch the entire thing, then you truly have my deepest condolences. I assume that you, like myself, have now entered a prolonged state of mourning. There is a long list of takeaways from this debate, very few of which  have anything to do with policy. Now, I find myself focusing on two primary questions: “How did we get here?” and “What does this mean for voters?”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention some of the more humorous aspects of the debate and, more specifically, the public reactions to them. If you didn’t watch the debate or have yet to hear anything about it, let me draw you in with this statement made by CNN’s Jake Tapper: “That was a hot mess inside a dumpster fire inside a train wreck.” A variety of commentators echoed similar sentiments, including the following statement made by Lisa Lerer of the New York Times: “I can tell you the loser of this debate: the voters.” In terms of the actual content, a variety of wild moments occurred, including when Biden told President Trump to “shut up” when Trump made a declaration about Democrats wanting to “take out the cows” and the many unintelligible moments where the candidates and the moderator were all talking at once in an unseemly chorus of chaos. Sounds like a party, right? Sure, there is humor to be found in this ludicrous display, but much of that is overshadowed by the real sense of concern we should all feel.

Whether or not you pay close attention to politics, I think it’s fair to say that we are all aware of the importance of the November election. If the debate conveyed any message, it is that this is a moment in our country unlike any we have seen before. I know we have all heard this statement thrown around plenty of times, especially during 2020, but this is truly the case. This debate was so disastrous that there is real consideration of giving the moderator the ability to mute candidates. We, as a population, are divided and scared. Sure, this fear manifests itself in different ways surrounding a variety of sources, but the fact remains that the anxiety and uncertainty of this year have overtaken our lives. Fear has power. This is my best answer for how we got here. But we are not yet doomed to stay here. This brings me to the question — what will this mean for voters? 

It is now becoming abundantly clear that the candidates are not going to do the work for us. It seems very unlikely that voters will be able to learn about the positions and policies of each candidate from debates. Therefore, the responsibility to stay informed falls even more heavily on the shoulders of each voter. If we truly want our country to not be ruled by ignorance and fear, we must, as individuals, hold ourselves accountable. We have seen the ridiculous outcomes of refusing to listen to or respect other human beings, and how it turns the democratic process into a laughingstock. To reclaim democracy, we must channel the energy we spend talking over one another into informing ourselves and voting.

College quarantine plan chaotic & stressful

Megan Fisher

Contributing Writer

 

Over the weekend, my entire house was quarantined at the Best Western for possible exposure to a COVID-19 case. I feel that the College portrays this as a smooth and well-planned process, but that was not my personal experience. It all began when I received a message through Microsoft Teams indicating that I, as well as the rest of my house, would have to go into quarantine from a staff member in the Dean of Students office. While one or two members of my house got on brief calls with this point of contact, we received very little information about next steps or why it was even necessary for us to go into quarantine. It was Friday afternoon, so we were all dealing with going to class, but still left to wonder just exactly what was going on. I missed classes in the time that our house was on Teams calls with the Dean of Students office staff, packing and moving into the Best Western. Our house was released from quarantine around 45 hours later after our isolated house member got a negative test result. 

The entire weekend was filled with inconsistencies. We first wondered why we could not stay in our own house on campus to quarantine if the College considered us already exposed. Our point of contact explained that it was because the shared bathrooms and poor ventilation in our house could lead to further exposure. However, while in isolation, our house member was isolated in the same house as another person who was a possible positive case. For meals, the College delivered lunch and dinner to the doors of the hotel rooms of everyone in quarantine. Then, for breakfast, we were instructed to go down to the lobby, sit with other quarantined students and eat with our masks off — with no to-go option available — then return to our rooms. While this was comforting because it reminded me of meeting friends for what we all know is the best meal of the day, Lowry breakfast, I do not think this behavior is what the CDC would define as “quarantine.” In fact, we ate breakfast with another quarantined house. Eating meals together is something my house has avoided all semester, meaning that sharing breakfast in the hotel not only exposed us to each other more than usual, but also to an entire extra group of students with whom we normally would not share meals. I cannot imagine that the shared ventilation in our house could be a higher risk factor than eating meals together in close proximity — without masks on, of course. 

Another major factor in this experience that I feel the College vastly overlooked was the mental and emotional toll of the process. When asked how this would be handled, our point of contact in the Dean of Students office seemed to have no reply. They said we could continue to see a counselor if we had one already in place on campus, or they could direct us to outside resources. My mental health began to deteriorate very quickly in quarantine, but since I am not already on the counseling rotation, I had no access to professional help, unless you count binge watching the new season of “Schitt’s Creek.”

I acknowledge that I have been very critical in this article. I am by no means a public health expert or even fully aware of how the school came to these decisions and procedures, so I want to recognize that this is purely my experience and opinion based on my limited knowledge. While at the time I believed the move to be an overreaction, I do want to commend the school for keeping their student body safe up until this point.

My recommendations to improve this process are  to work with the Best Western to have breakfast delivered to the rooms of quarantined students, allocate mental health services directly to people in quarantine, isolate possible cases in completely separate buildings and have a more rigorous review process of these quarantine procedures. Again, I acknowledge that I have no knowledge of the school’s budget for this matter or many other things going on in the background. However, this process is disrupting students’ lives physically, mentally and emotionally. For students, my recommendation is if you find out a friend is in quarantine, reach out to them. While I was in quarantine, some friends did not realize how stressful this process was; therefore, they didn’t reach out. While this is not their fault, it still just added confusion and anxiety to the whole process. This process was way more stressful than I imagined, and would’ve been even worse without the support of friends.

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