8:51:25 FirstDayOfClasses

A student wearing a mask exits Gatton Student Center on the first day of in-person classes on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

While walking into the elevator of my dorm, I noticed that the person who entered with me had her mask down because she was eating an apple. My corona anxiety gave me the courage to politely ask her to put up her mask.

“But I’m eating,” she replied.

“I know, but we’re in an enclosed space,” I said. She put up her mask and my regret set in; was I being mean by asking her to do that? No, I quickly reminded myself. 

We all need to remember that we are living in a pandemic where being in a cramped elevator for even 10 seconds runs the risk of transmission. It’s not worth it for an apple or for face ID when the passcode only takes seconds to punch in. 

UK does not have the infrastructure to monitor if every student is following the health guidelines.  Due to the inability to supervise off-campus parties and a largely-unenforceable basic daily wellness screening, it’s up to us to mitigate the spread of the virus. 

These actions might come with thoughts of self-doubt; am I ruining someone’s fun by reporting a party? Am I being unreasonable if I ask someone to wear a mask outside even though they’re close to others? Will the people on this bus judge me if I call out someone who isn’t wearing a mask?

You’re not being rude or unreasonable. Parties especially aren’t worth it and there’s more of a stigma around them. More people know it’s bad to party, and universities are equipped (or at least will try) to discipline students if they happen; it’s smaller instances for which we have to watch out. 

Gatton may be big, but it’s still an enclosed space. If you see not wearing their mask in the student center, try meeting the person’s eyes and pointing to your own mask or make a gesture for them to put it up. If they don’t comply, try saying something. But don’t be hostile. Fights, especially physical ones, will only make the situation worse. 

Buses are dangerous since they’re more enclosed, so this should give you even more of a reason to request proper mask wearing. Try the gesture if they’re looking your way. If not, project your voice, and if people stare at you for doing that, let them. Make a statement. Be empowered by their attention. This is the time to make a difference, no matter how small, and to show everyone that some students care about the spread.

If you see someone who’s a repeat offender, send in a tip to the university. They say snitches get stitches, but I’d rather have that than COVID-19. And remember - it’s not ratting someone out, it’s caring about everyone’s health. 

If you’re outside and people are significantly far from you or you can’t see anyone at all, feel free to take in a breath of fresh air, and then put your mask back on when you get closer to others. 

The longer we have to wear masks —until the vaccine arrives—the more normal it will become. But until then, we all have a part to play in making sure that everyone follows guidelines, and we should feel proud doing it.