My hope is that after the pandemic, it becomes second nature for people with healthy immune systems to think about the fact that millions of people like myself with suppressed immune systems are living among them and act accordingly by normalizing simple public health practices. When you are sick, wear a mask to the doctor or to the hospital. Stay away from others when you are sick. Regularly clean and sanitize your hands and surfaces.
Living with CF certainly complicates college life, and even more so in a pandemic.
Last fall, I was enjoying my freshman year of college at Ohio Northern University. Suddenly, in March, like so many others, the university chose to finish the semester through remote learning. It was yet another consequence of Covid-19. Although this was not how I had envisioned my first year of college, I appreciate the caution that was taken. Early this year, when the decision was announced that we would be able to attend classes in-person for the fall, I was very excited, but cautious.
Is the lecture hall safe? Do I need additional treatments? Is it OK to hang out with friends? Did this dining room table get cleaned? These types of questions have always been a part of my life. Some variation of them come up at the grocery store, library or any public place.
I consulted my doctors, and they were confident in me, knowing I have been, quite literally, prepared for a pandemic my whole life.
And thankfully, our university has taken aggressive steps such as enhanced cleaning, mandatory face coverings, socially distant classes, limiting the size of gatherings, and random testing. Not only has it made my life safer, but we were also able to complete the semester in-person with very few cases across campus. I was able to engage with in-class discussion, get involved with campus activities, and make new friends throughout the fall.
Like most during this time, I haven’t attended parties and other events. The adjustment to a more reclusive college experience is easier for a CF patient. Canceling or changing events is an unfortunate reality for us. As a child, if a friend had the sniffles, I didn’t go to the sleepover. Throughout the pandemic, I’ve said no to friends and family stopping by and set limits on my contact with college friends to stay healthy.
It’s been a somber year, and I understand the collective sigh of relief many are having with the distribution of vaccines. Yet, for many months to come, I urge you to remain vigilant — following safety protocols to protect your family, your friends, your neighbors, and people like me. I will continue living with a Covid-19 mindset long after others have gone back to their normal lives. Until then, I hope everyone considers how their daily behavior helps or harms their fellow citizens. So many lives depend on it.