Amid one of the worst regional COVID-19 outbreaks in the country, USC students need to find a way to party safely this fall, and the lively bar scene that USC is known for may pose a danger to the health of the campus community.
The bars and restaurants that dot the streets of Five Points are notoriously crowded. An average Friday or Saturday night, in the case of bars like The Cotton Gin or restaurants like The Salty Nut, means being packed in small quarters with potentially hundreds of others for an extended period of time.
It’s no surprise that those circumstances aren’t helpful in mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and the indoor setting, poor ventilation and numerous uncleaned shared surfaces inside these bars only serve to make the problem worse. Five Points may be hard to give up this fall, but all signs point to it being a hotbed of COVID-19 transmission, meaning students should be ready to abstain from the bar-hopping – at least until the problem improves.
A better idea might be having a small party – but how can students party safely?
To start, take the recent headlines of deaths and infections from “COVID-19 parties” in Texas and Alabama seriously. The final words of the 30-year-old man in Texas who died after attending a “COVID party” were, “I think I made a mistake. I thought this was a hoax, but it’s not.”
If you’re invited somewhere and you know you’ve potentially been in the vicinity of someone who has the virus, don’t endanger everyone else by going.
If you’re going to have a party, keep the guest list small. Try to invite people you’ve been seeing on a consistent basis and try to have a rough idea of where everyone has been.
Additionally, keep the parties outside if possible. In the open air, the droplets that transmit COVID-19 “disperse more quickly than they do inside,” according to Melissa Bronstein, director of infection prevention and control for Rochester Regional Health. Keep congregations outdoors, where there is enough space to spread out a bit and enough ventilation to help dissipate airborne droplets carrying the virus.
This might go without saying, but, even while you’re at a party, wash your hands and don’t touch your face. Vox reported that soap — any soap — “absolutely annihilates viruses like the coronavirus,” making it the easiest and most effective way to stop the spread.
Another tip is to avoid shared surfaces. This means that everyone should have their own cups, cans, bottles, plates, food, vapes and anything else that could be shared. Vox also reported that one of the most important parts of socializing safely is “avoiding these surfaces or taking steps to clean them before you touch them.”
Additionally, Vox suggested partying with a “closed circle” of friends that you see often and who have agreed to abstain from seeing many others. This lessens the risk that one or more of you contracts the virus elsewhere and brings it back.
Startlingly, the number of COVID-19 cases in individuals under 30 is approaching half of all cases in South Carolina. According to WYFF News 4, “since June 1 there has been a 436.5% increase in newly reported cases in the 21-30 age group in South Carolina.”
This makes it pressingly important that USC students, who are among the demographic in which the number of cases is exploding right now, take the threat seriously and make the right choices to protect themselves and their peers.
College kids will party, and that is unavoidable. What is avoidable, however, is contracting COVID-19 in the process. Be safe, know what is at stake and do your part to keep USC healthy and secure.