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There is lack of awareness for people at high-risk of contracting COVID-19, some students say

Enan Whitby, a senior sociology major, reads for his online classes in his parents home April 2. The group of people who are at high risk is much larger than many realize, according to Whitby. (Photo Courtesy: Enan Whitby)

In order to slow the spread of COVID-19, Westminster College encourages people to not hang out on campus and to practice social distancing.

Precautions like these are not only to protect oneself, but to protect people who are at high-risk for contracting COVID-19.

“I think that people are aware of [those] who are at high-risk, however, they do not care to be cautious,” said Makenzie Rowe, a sophomore educational studies major. “I have gone out several times and people do not respect the 6-feet space limit, cough without covering their mouth, or do not wear a mask when around a large group of people. It is very frustrating to see a sense of disregard for the effect they could have on other individuals.”

Rowe lives with her grandparents who are over the age of 65 and have separate health conditions like diabetes. 

People who are at high-risk for severe illness from COVID-19 include people who are 65 and over, those who live in a nursing home or a long-term care facility and those with underlying medical conditions like chronic lung disease, moderate to severe asthma and people who are immunocompromised, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Some students said people don’t know how large the group of people who are at high-risk is. 

“I don’t think people are aware just how many people in their lives are high-risk,” said Enan Whitby, a senior sociology major. “It isn’t just people over 60, but it’s your friend who has lung problems, your coworker who is immunocompromised and your partner who is an essential worker.”

Whitby lives with his mother who is at high risk and is healing from a recent surgery, which puts him in the category, too. 

Some students said this affects those with invisible disabilities, too.

Shay Hudson, a senior English major, plans for upcoming coursework in her home April 2. It is frustrating when people ignore social distancing and take trips to hike in Moab or go backcountry skiing when many who are at high risk cannot stop worrying, according to Hudson. (Photo Courtesy: Shay Hudson)

“The problem is nearly all the qualifiers for being high-risk are invisible illnesses,” said Shay Hudson, a senior English major. “You don’t know someone’s medical history, and frankly you have no right to even in a pandemic, so there isn’t a way to know. It’s just a facet of the larger discussion of disability and invisible disabilities, and how that’s scrutinized and judged daily.”

Hudson lives with her parents, and both her and almost her entire family is at high risk. 

It is frustrating to see people going on trips like daily hikes to Moab or backcountry skiing, because people don’t get to stop worrying like that, according to Hudson. 

Some students said people do not understand the details of those at high-risk.

“There are two main misconceptions at play here,” said Grey Burnett, a senior English major. “The first is how wide of a demographic ‘high risk’ actually covers – it’s not just the elderly and a lot of conditions like, say, asthma can put you into that high risk group. Many people you know may be high risk and you’d never know. The second misconception is how critical a role each and every person plays in fixing this problem.” 

Grey lives with her fiance and are both at high risk.

“So many cases of COVID-19 are asymptomatic that by traveling or by not social distancing, you could be unknowingly infecting someone else who could be high risk or could not have the resources for treatment,” Burnett said.

Some students said it is frustrating that there is a lack of awareness

“It frustrates me immensely when people aren’t keeping themselves safe and hunkered down,” Enan Whitby said. “They are not only putting themselves at risk, but they are risking the lives of everyone they come into contact with. It’s bigger than all of us, and I think a lot of people fail to recognize that.”

It is important to take precautionary action, according to some students.

“Myself, as well as others, may not be in the high-risk group, but we have family members at home that might be,” Rowe said. “I just ask that you understand how serious COVID-19 is for some of us. I love my grandparents too much to see them get hit with such a horrible virus, all because people who were infected may not have taken it as seriously as it should have been taken.”

For many students, there is an added stress. 

“It’s an upper respiratory infection and I’m already at additional risk when it comes to those,” said Hudson. “So is the majority of my family. I’m facing the very real reality that this isn’t going to be okay, and an overworked hospital is a death sentence.”

Some students say it’s time to advocate for accessible healthcare, especially for those at high risk.

“We need universal healthcare,” Burnett said. “We need to redistribute wealth away from billionaires, corporations and other amoral entities. If we look at how quickly the stock market broke down when people stopped working it makes it clear how much power laborers have over the Bourgeoisie.” 

People need to leverage that power, according to Burnett.

“How many less cases would there be now if the medical system wasn’t controlled by greed,” said Burnett. “If our government didn’t prioritize the stock market over human lives?”


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Cat Taylor is a junior communication major with a minor in art. For a year and a half, she worked as a communication coordinator for the Office of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion where she co-created the social media campaign, “We Are Westminster” that discussed unconscious bias. In her free time, she can be seen drawing, playing video games and drinking a significant amount of coffee.

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