One BYU Student's Experience With Campus Pandemic Precautions, Roommates

Oct 7, 2020

With 1,578 reported cases, Brigham Young University has more than double the covid-19 cases of other Utah universities. One epidemiology student talks about the behavior on campus.
Credit universe.byu.edu

Coronavirus cases in Utah continue to grow in young-adult populations-- especially those on college campuses. Mia Fairbanks interviewed Janice Hall, a student at Brigham Young University about her experience with COVID-19 precautions at the university and attitudes among other students. 

 

Mia Fairbanks: I'm talking with Janice Hall, a student at BYU, about the state of COVID-19 and how she is experiencing it at the school. Janice, why don't you introduce yourself?

 

Janice Hall: My name is Janice Hall. This is my third year at BYU. My major is public health with an emphasis in epidemiology, so that's actually the study of diseases and tracking diseases.

 

Mia: So can you tell me a little bit about what you've been seeing on campus in regards to how students are receiving and their attitudes about these COVID-19 protocols?

 

Janice: I would say that it's really mixed. I would say for the most part that everyone I've seen has been really good about wearing masks. But there are definitely people that you can tell are not about it, I guess. They'll be wearing a mask, but they won't have their nose covered, or they'll quite frequently take it down and that sort of thing. 

 

BYU also has the Healthy Together app where we're supposed to check in daily with our symptoms. We are supposed to be using it and kind of showing this passport that says like, we don't have any symptoms when we're going into these larger areas. But personally, I've never been asked to show that or prove that I don't have any symptoms of the coronavirus. Then I would say off campus, there's a lot more push back against the masks and the mask regulations.

 

Mia: That seems to follow the pattern that Utah has had as a state as a whole. But can you tell me a little bit about how being a student of epidemiology has affected how you think about this pandemic?”

Janice: “Through a couple of my classes I was looking at, okay, what are these studies showing for mask wearing? The studies that I read said maybe a cloth mask is not as good as an N 95 mask, of course it's not. But by wearing them, we are reducing the risk of exposure to both parties. And so seeing a lot of people being like, this is stupid, why are we wearing masks, I was like you're making it political when this should be public health. I'm definitely grateful that I'm in epidemiology, because it's shown me like trusted resources and where I can look to see, you know, is this making sense, does six feet really work? Does wearing a mask really work? That sort of thing.

 

Mia: And you do have some underlying conditions that make you more vulnerable to this disease. How has that affected your experience at BYU?

 

Janice: Honestly, not gonna lie, it's been a little bit scary, especially because I'm studying epidemiology. I have professors that are a little bit more upfront and explain data, I feel like a little bit better than maybe just a normal citizen would. But I think what's been the scariest for me is having roommates that just don't care. [Things like] witnessing them going to so many parties and having had exposure to the Coronavirus, but not even tell me as their roommate.  I'm sitting here going like, I have two underlying conditions that make me a little bit more susceptible. If you get me sick, that's pretty much an automatic hospital visit for me. So I think that was probably one of my biggest concerns is having roommates that just don't care and that don't communicate when they are going out or they're around people that have been sick. I was honestly really lucky that I got married in the middle of the semester, and I moved out.  Now I'm living with my husband, who obviously cares. I know that there are a lot of people in my same position that have to live with roommates, and yet their roommates are going out and just bringing it back. I mean, it's a risk of exposure. 

 

I felt like you get pressured into this thinking, like, well, if your roommates are going, and they're bringing it back to you, what's the point in staying home? You might as well go too because you're already getting the exposure to it. You get pressured into going and you want to go and you want to participate, but at the same time, you're like this isn't safe.

 

Mia: I'm sure that's been very difficult for you. If there were some advice you could give your fellow students, what would you tell them?

 

Janice: I know that we're all sick of this. But if we would just be a little bit more cautious and stop looking at this from a political point and instead look at this as more of a public health point and just care. Because most of us don't live in Utah County full time. We're affecting so much more than BYU students. We're affecting everybody that lives here. We're affecting the entire economy. It's not just about us. We have to look beyond ourselves and just start caring more.

 

Mia: Thank you, Janice.