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Elisabeth McLaughlin / Staff photographer

The day after Columbia canceled class last Sunday, Low Steps were packed with people in summery outfits creating Instagram stories and enjoying spring picnics in the sunshine. Some of those students might have enjoyed the previous night’s “cancelation of class” parties, while others planned more activities for the break. Some may have complained about the catastrophic stock market decline and the suspension of their internships while setting up coffee chats.

When Columbia even canceled class to avoid public gatherings, “carpe diem” seemed to be the only thing students thought of in the midst of the worldwide outbreak.

Some people are sticking to their spring travel plans, going to dining halls and gyms, and immersing themselves in crowds, despite the potential danger of infection. They kiss, hug, and share drinks, which could put others at a greater risk of infection. This could be due to a trivial moment of anxiety and a subsequent craving for emotional support. However, the CDC recommends avoiding close contact.

As a free spirit, I completely understand the temptation of sunshine and alcohol. Yet I also acknowledge the fact that, despite precautions, there is still the potential danger of infection. “Carpe diem” is not the solution to it. Although some may think that we are simply playing a game of probability, minimizing public gatherings can lower the chances of contracting the disease.

As a Chinese student, I have been closely watching COVID-19 updates for the past three months and have heard about the extremely difficult process of fighting the epidemic from family and friends in China. I understand the potential threat of the epidemic and the significance of self-protection. Beyond the health crisis, the new coronavirus and its resounding impacts are also supposed to impact international economies like China for months to come, while businesses run out of cash, patients struggle to find timely care, and hundreds of millions of people are placed under travel restrictions and quarantine regulations.

The new coronavirus is an actual threat. Although it may be fun to spend this newfound time socializing with friends, this virus is serious and has already resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 people across the globe. It pains me to witness my talented classmates making irresponsible decisions that expose them and our entire New York City community to serious risk. Even if they believe that the disease will not result in severe consequences for them, they can still carry the disease to people who may be more susceptible to serious illness.

Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, the Columbia community has not been living up to its core values with anti-Asian rhetoric, misconduct handling students in quarantine, and countless parties even after New York declared a state of emergency. I am sure we all have made many mistakes in our lives. However, given the risk regarding the coronavirus, we can no longer afford any more mistakes—“carpe diem” is not the solution. Please stay healthy, safe, and avoid public gatherings!

Xinle Hou is a sophomore at Barnard College studying comparative literature. She hopes everyone stays healthy and safe.

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