As COVID-19 clusters continue popping up in colleges, universities, are students following safety protocols?

BOSTON — Data has shown many college and university students adjust their COVID-19 protocols depending on who is around on campus.

During the day they may walking around campus six feet apart with a mask on, but if if they are at a party at night, it may be a different story. Salem State is sanctioning students who went to an off-campus party Friday night, but this is an issue just about every college is dealing with.

“I had a really bad sore throat one day, I had a really bad headache one day, I lost my smell and taste for like a couple of days,” said Newton native Matthew Drucker who is now a freshman at the University of Michigan.

He’s now in quarantine after he and several friends tested positive for COVID-19 last week, but have no idea where they got it.

“It’s so hard to tell I have seen so many people and it’s too easy to see so many people here,” said Drucker.

Whether restaurants and parties off-campus or dining halls and friends dorms on campus, Drucker says there is no way for large Universities to enforce COVID-19 protocols everywhere.

“I was wearing a mask, but obviously like if I am in a dorm with my friends no,” Drucker said. “When I had to wear a mask, I was wearing a mask, kind of, but if you go to a house party, you are not wearing a mask because you know college kids are dumb.”

Before you cast an opinion on Drucker, it’s important to recognize, changing COVID-19 protocols depending on who’s around may be common practice at your child’s college as well. Right now several schools in our area are dealing with large gatherings and potential outbreaks including Salem State, Merrimack College in North Andover, U-Mass Amherst & Northeastern.

“People who have had COVID-19 right now are like it’s whatever," said Wayland native Alyssa Dennis who is now a freshman at Indiana University. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if we can get it again.”

She and her roommate have recovered from the virus, but say they got it even without going to any parties. She says that’s more of a reason for students to practice all the COVID-19 protocols even when there are no older supervisors present.

“I think people are a little bit more respectful and also no one wants to get in trouble so that’s the other thing,” said Dennis. “And no one wants to get other people sick especially those who are older.”

Drucker says sometimes people who test positive will not tell the university everywhere they went, which as you can imagine can lead to an outbreak.

“It is hard to tell college kids not to go to a party when you’re able to,” said Drucker. “But if you’re going to be unsafe you need to be honest if you have symptoms or if you are exposed to someone who has it because you don’t want to put others in danger.”

This isn’t an issue with every student, as many students are listening to the protocols, but students we talked to say there are some students that no matter how bad things get will always prioritize a party over the virus for two reasons:

  • It’s their first taste of freedom and a lot of college students unfortunately don’t know how to handle that.
  • Many college students feel they are young enough that even if they get COVID, they will be fine.

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