We have finally reached the part of the term where most classes are returning to in-person lectures and there are a lot of mixed feelings and uncertainty. UBCO is taking health and safety advice from the Provincial Health officer, Ministry of Health, Interior Health, and the BC Centre for Disease Control to attempt to ensure a safe transition back to campus. Despite these reassurances, some students are still uncomfortable about the prospects of returning to high traffic, fast-paced environments like the university for many reasons.
The climate in Canada regarding the pandemic has been stressful, to say the least. In Kelowna and across Canada, support for the trucker convoy in Ottawa that has been torturing residents has been soaring. Areas like downtown have been flooded with anti-maskers and anti-vaxxers looking to demonize public health efforts. It would be shocking if this were somehow a new and novel spectacle in the city, but this is not the case. These protests have been going on downtown since 2020, and many students have witnessed these waves of people holding up traffic and making noise for months, including myself. I remember a man dressed in camo, walking around downtown unmasked with a yellow star pinned to his shirt that said “unvaccinated”. You could only imagine the look on the faces of my friend and me as we scooted by to get a safe distance away.
The truckers and traffic-disrupting protestors aren’t the only ones who have been causing a ruckus. We can’t forget the FREEBC movement, where gyms tried to open despite being closed due to the surging numbers. Iron Energy Gym in West Kelowna tried to lead a movement to encourage all gyms to open their doors against public health mandates on January 18th. They called upon the public via their Instagram to garner support and engage with those who believe that the mandates are suppressing their rights and freedoms…to lift weights? The gyms were legally allowed to reopen before this train wreck of a campaign could come to fruition, but I wonder what would have happened if this gym went ahead with its plan with its seemingly devout following.
Maybe I’m paranoid, but I don’t trust large amounts of people in a university to always be safe. Just walking through the halls, you hear distant coughs, see noses peeking out, or witness people removing their masks to be audible to speak to the person next to them, while you sit at your unsanitized desk next to a person that is a maximum of 10 inches away from you. I’m not in a crisis mode yet, but I can’t help but feel a little uncomfortable when I know that this pandemic is still in full swing around the world with no end in sight. I fear too many people are either lax because they think it’s not a big deal, or they think their “opinions” are valid against the decades of scientific research that fly over their heads, to which they attempt to draw false equivalencies. Or perhaps they’re just not that empathetic to the absolutely exhausted healthcare and essential workers who are battling on the frontlines day in and day out, risking their health and that of their families.
I get it. Zoom University is not the experience that we are paying for, nor want. Trust me, I pay international student fees. I am also not adamantly fighting for the disallowance of in-person class. What I am saying is that a lot of us are uncomfortable. All these different factors within and outside of the university have caused a somewhat uneasy atmosphere, filled with uncertainty and likely, germs. Some have their own health issues, their families to care for, and/or food that they need to work to put on the table. As classes resume on campus, please be aware of your surroundings. Keep sanitizing, washing your hands, and wearing your masks properly. Everyone wants to get to the end of this pandemic or maybe just pretend for a little while that it is over. It’s not over. It won’t be over until everyone does their part to stop the spread. Protect yourself, protect others and for goodness sake…try to talk down your anti-vax aunt or something. We don’t want to hear about how big pharma is conspiring against us and why essential oils and quartz will cure the ailing.