Our 18-year-old son was on spring break from Northern Arizona University (NAU) last week, staying home with us just as we began some serious social distancing. Now he desperately wants to go back to the dorm. He’s loving his first year of college and, in particular, dorm life.
Wait, what? The dorm is open?
At a time when restaurants and bars are closed, large gatherings are canceled, and people are told to stay 6 feet apart in places where clear heads prevail, NAU has instituted online education so students can stay remote, but the university has also made clear the campus is open, the dorms are there for the living, and food service will continue.
That’s made us, as parents, the bad guys, advising our son not to reenter what seems like an obvious cesspool of potential infection, as students are lured back from all over the state and beyond. That suspicion is confirmed by Caroline Buckee, associate professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Based on early anecdotal evidence and ill-advised statements, we’ve fooled the under-60 set, and particularly teens and young adults, into dangerous complacency.
“Absolutely, dorm environments are places where we expect Covid-19 to transmit efficiently because people are in close proximity, and unless they can be confined to their rooms, they’re sharing bathrooms, they’re sharing kitchens,” Buckee tells Elemental.