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Battery’s Dead: Campus health falls on the individual

“OMG did you see the game last weekend? What an upset for the Bobcats! Do you want to go to Brick Bre-”

You awaken. Class starts in five minutes. The walk across campus is 15 minutes on a good day. You’ve sunk deep into your bed, into a pile of sweat. Swallowing is like trying to push a water balloon through a pipe full of nails–futile. You’re not making it to PHIL 1010. You’re going to go buy some Tylenol and NyQuil. 

It’s sickness season. 

It happens every year, twice a year; after a period of about three or four weeks into the semester; the “Athens Plague” begins to make the rounds. Or, every year since that eventful spring three years ago, a bar-basement mutated, dorm-room-romped mutation of COVID makes its way through friend groups like some sweet, sweet gossip.

It takes no prisoners. The biggest loner on this campus, waltzing to class in between Radiohead listening sessions and periods of yearning and longing, is dead in the water in every single class they’re in. If you don’t go out, the guy sitting next to you in finance, Jimmy, did, and there is no way Jimmy properly washes his hands enough or is, in general, sanitary. 

This is where the dilemma comes in: whether or not the government or the university acts like it, we’re still, somehow, in the midst of a pandemic. Every fall wave is given a quarter of the attention it deserves, precaution thrown out the window, and the blame is put on some virus or cold that is “natural” and “good for the immune system.” 

The safety is now in the hands of the individual–are you going to wear a mask? Are you going to keep even 1/6th of the distance between yourself and the next person at Destroyer Night?

Realistically, the answer to those questions and any other of the type is a simple “no.” 18 to 22-year-olds, when in the setting of a university, can barely balance classes and go out without spiraling at one point or another. We’re only young once! It really is so much fun to hang out with your friends! We already did our time when our high school careers were unrecognizably altered. We’re due.

But that’s not what it’s about. It’s not about masks or classes, or going out; it’s about trusting one another. It’s impossible not to antagonize the next guy when considering a public health issue–because it’s never me or you. Friends fear owning up to their positive tests because they become the enemy of the day, forcing other sick friends to swab their noses and put the next week of classes and bar hopping on the line. 

How can you alleviate worry in a public setting when the odds of proper hygiene taking place after 8 p.m. are slim to none? It’s imperative that someone, even as extreme as a hypochondriac, can maneuver this terrain in a way that doesn’t cause worsening anxiety.

We can make our own differences as individuals. Even putting the idea of being sanitary into the collective consciousness shifts the odds a little in favor of getting out of this fall wave relatively unscathed. 

So, put yourself in the shoes of another. Our campus would become an academic biohazard within two weeks if no one washed their hands. Wash yours because you believe Jimmy, no matter how unlikely it seems, washes his because he doesn’t want you to get sick either.

Nothing will make you appreciate a smooth throat, two working nostrils, and a non-aching head more than being the latest victim of the “Athens Plague; or, more likely, a COVID-19 strain created by the gnarliest, most degenerative young adult behavior you can possibly think of. 

Matthew Butcher is a junior studying English at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk more about it? Let Matthew know by tweeting him @mattpbutcher.

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