Listen, I hate to have to use this phrase, but it’s true that we’re all adjusting to a “new normal”, trying to find some semblance of a life in this pandemic that is not going away any time soon. This means we’re all figuring out what types of activities we are comfortable with. Going through my friends’ Instagram stories is like basically watching Judge Judy: some people are dining out at restaurants, some people are subtweeting people who are dining outside and proclaiming they’d never dare, some people are even *gasp* eating inside. Basically, it all runs the gamut from some people doing a thing to other people shading the people who do that thing to other people preaching about how we should all be kind. And while I generally try not to judge people who are following their local ordinances and doing the best they can, there are just certain activities that seem like a bad idea any way you slice it. Case in point: parties. From college students to influencers, from Georgia to New York, people are partying like there’s no tomorrow. And by “tomorrow” I mean “pandemic”.
To be clear, most parties that end up in the news do violate guidelines, like the now-infamous rager at the University of North Georgia that occurred over the weekend, but either way, attending gatherings does pose a risk of contracting and spreading coronavirus. The CDC advises, “The more people an individual interacts with at a gathering and the longer that interaction lasts, the higher the potential risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and COVID-19 spreading.” Parties would certainly qualify, and gatherings where people are coming from out of state and not able to maintain 6 feet distance apart present the highest risk of spreading the virus. So with that in mind, let’s get into what happened in Georgia.
This past weekend, students at the University of North Georgia flocked to the Dahlonega campus in preparation for classes, which start on Monday. Of course, as college kids tend to do, they packed into an outdoor rage-fest outside some off-campus houses with no masks in sight. Currently, gatherings in Georgia are allowed for up to 50 people, but attendees must maintain 6 feet of distance from each other. Now, I was never one of those kids who ever correctly guessed how many jelly beans were in the jar in my elementary school library to win a prize, but this looks like a hell of a lot more than 50 people to me:
First night back at University of North Georgia in Dahlonega. 😳😳 pic.twitter.com/VAmZ2TLvuz
— Everything Georgia (@GAFollowers) August 16, 2020
And anyone with eyes can see that there is no semblance of distancing happening whatsoever.
UNG released a statement in response to the party, telling Fox 5 Atlanta that while it happened off-campus at privately owned apartments, “We are disappointed that many of our students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance by congregating in a large group without social distancing or face coverings. The University of North Georgia continues to emphasize to our students and university community that everyone has an individual responsibility both on and off campus to follow guidance from the Georgia Department of Public Health and the CDC to prevent the spread of the virus.”
According to the school’s website, UNG offers individuals who are at risk for severe illness with COVID-19 the opportunity “to participate in courses with limited face-to-face contact with other individuals.” Students are encouraged to “screen daily” for symptoms, aka take their temperatures and make sure they can still taste and smell things, and must leave residence halls if they are diagnosed with COVID-19. Students who are symptomatic may be able to get tested on campus. All students, faculty, staff, and visitors are required to wear face coverings inside buildings and facilities where social distancing is not possible.
Georgia currently has over 237,000 COVID cases and more than 4,700 deaths. In the last 2 weeks, Lumpkin County, where Dahlonega is located, reported 116 confirmed cases, with 417 total confirmed cases. Lumpkin county has a population of just under 33,000, and the University of North Georgia had some 19,000 students enroll in 2019. In Georgia, people ages 18-29 currently have the highest number of confirmed cases by far, with 56,275 (people ages 30-39 come in second, with 40,278, so once again, young people, you are not immune). With classes starting on Monday at UNG, I would be very nervous to step foot inside a classroom.
Back in early July, young people in Alabama were caught throwing coronavirus parties in order to deliberately infect each other with the virus, with the first person to test positive winning a payout. Days later, in Florida, reports broke that a 17-year-old girl died after contracting the virus at a church party with about 100 other attendees. And at the end of July, a Chainsmokers concert in the Hamptons drew the ire of the internet as well as Governor Cuomo, plus an investigation from state authorities, when concertgoers were captured on Instagram dancing in close proximity and not social distancing. And within the last few days, an entire off-campus sorority house at Oklahoma State University is being quarantined after 23 Pi Phis tested positive for COVID-19. The cases were not necessarily linked to a party, but more likely to school being back in session and the start of sorority recruitment.
As many colleges resume in-person classes, the rest of us fear an accompanying rise in COVID-19 cases as social distancing, sanitizing, and mask measures are proving hard to enforce. And certainly not helping matters is college kids throwing parties. I know that’s like, college kids’ whole thing, but can you just not? I have never been to a UNG party, but I can assure you with full confidence that no party is worth it.
Images: Rob Hainer / Shutterstock; GAFollowers / Twitter