Two weeks ago, the University announced plans to demolish Charles Village rowhomes. Community members and civic organizations were frustrated that, instead of seeking community input, Hopkins left the buildings to sit vacant for years — allowing them to deteriorate to a nearly irreparable state.
We must show respect for the community that Hopkins has too often failed. Thanksgiving break is fast approaching, and many students living in Charles Village are planning to travel home. With COVID-19 cases rising nationwide, our actions over the next few weeks will have a direct effect on the Baltimore community.
If your travel plans are subject to change, consider staying put. And if you do intend to travel, adhere to public health guidelines and take extra precautions. Thanksgiving break is only one week; in accordance with public health guidelines, you should spend twice that amount of time in quarantine. As students at a leading public health institution, we must listen to the health-care professionals many of us aspire to become. If you go home, stay home. While the pandemic may have become an everyday part of our lives, the danger facing our community and the health-care workers treating patients has grown exponentially.
Perhaps what is most important to acknowledge is that you can never be entirely sure you don’t have the virus. With a relatively high false negative rate, test results can provide a false sense of security. It usually takes a few days following exposure for COVID-19 to be detectable. A negative test result is not a get-out-of-jail-free card. If you get tested Monday, fly home Tuesday and test negative again Wednesday, you could still very well be bringing more than green bean casserole to Thanksgiving dinner.
When we traveled home for the first time in March, we returned to stay-at-home orders and business restrictions. Few could fathom attending a party or eating inside a restaurant back then, but now there seems to be a stronger temptation to brunch with friends. We seem to have lost our caution at the exact moment we need it most.
The state of the pandemic is much worse now than it was in March. Experts are increasingly worried about COVID-19 fatigue; Americans are tired of social isolation and disrupted plans, but it’s more important than ever to practice social distancing. If you do travel over break, don’t go out. We recognize that Thanksgiving is usually an opportunity to reunite with high school friends, but this can’t happen this year. Even if you’ve quarantined, they may not have. If you hang out with just a few friends, for example, your gathering would be a melting pot of germs from everyone’s different cities and colleges.
The upcoming holidays will be a test of our commitment to each other and to Baltimore. If you plan to travel and return to campus, quarantine for 14 days — even if you get an early negative test result. Wear your mask, stay six feet apart and avoid unnecessary gatherings.
The responsibility is on us; we hope students will put the interests of our community before their own. The University should follow suit.