There’s no “safe” way to live in a dorm during a pandemic. As careful as your college kid may be, they can’t control whether Johnny Dumbass down the hall still does keg stands at frat parties on the weekends. Nothing is guaranteed with all these young people living together in a confined space with so many common areas, but there are some precautions you can remind them to take that will make them safer.
Keep up the basic hygiene
If there is one thing the coronavirus has gifted us, it is a renewed commitment to washing our hands and keeping our dirty, germy fingers away from our faces. Is this a thing we should have been committed to and focused on all along? Sure, but we weren’t, and it took a pandemic for us to be like, “Fiiiiiine, 20 seconds, got it.”
By now, we know we don’t need to be wiping down our groceries with sanitizing wipes before allowing them on the premises, but as soon as one gets back home or to their dorm? Wash those hands. About to eat? Wash them. Been a while since you washed them? Wash ‘em again. Not near a sink? Sanitize.
In between washing and sanitizing, don’t touch your mouth, eyes, or nose. Have to cough or sneeze? Aim it into your elbow (or a tissue, if you’ve got enough time to grab one). The basics work, so stick with them.
Masks and distancing
Dr. Preeti Malani, chief health officer and a professor in the division of infectious diseases at the University of Michigan, suggests in the New York Times that college students should think of their door room, rather than the entire residence hall, as home. Once upon a time, they would have hung out in the common areas together or congregated in the hallways to chat. This year, if you’re not in your own room, you need to have a mask on (unless you’re outside and more than six feet away from those around you).
Malani puts it best:
Face coverings provide protection only if worn correctly, so try different types of cloth masks to find one that fits well and is comfortable to wear for several hours. You should be able to talk and move around without the mask requiring frequent adjustment. Think of face coverings like underwear—have several pairs, wash them often and don’t share.
Of course, you can’t eat, sleep, and live in a mask, so you probably won’t be wearing them in your own room. So if you have roommates, Malani suggests having an open conversation with them up front to figure out what everyone is comfortable with and what boundaries you can put in place to keep each other as safe as possible.
A couple of final ideas
We know that transmission of the virus is less likely outdoors or in well-ventilated areas, so make the ventilation of your room a top priority, particularly if someone other than you or your roommate, such as a maintenance worker, needs to enter. Open windows and turn on fans to get some additional air movement through the space.
And for common areas you can’t avoid completely, such as showers or dining halls, try to hit them during off-peak hours. Take your shower during the lunch hour and grab your food once the lunch rush has thinned out. The more you can avoid common areas when you know they’ll be crowded, the safer you’ll be.
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