Health And Wellness

16 Ways To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus On Campus This Semester

Photo: Zigres/shutterstock
14 Ways To Protect Yourself From Coronavirus On Campus This Semester

After a summer of lockdown, coronavirus closures, vacation cancellations, and general misery, the return to college is probably a welcome distraction from months of living in your parent’s house.

As fall rolls in and colleges return, it’s easy to feel like life is returning to normal... until you see the amount of perspex screens that have been installed around campus and remember, “Oh yeah, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic.”

The fall semester is going to look a little (read: a lot) different this year, so it’s essential that you take proper coronavirus prevention precautions to protect your health and minimize your exposure.

Since coronavirus guidelines have been nothing short of a free for all across the US, thanks to the lack of helpful information coming out of the Oval Office, it’s hard to imagine that every college will be able to successfully implement necessary restrictions.

RELATED: 10 Confusing, Sad Truths About Being A College Student During The Pandemic

The CDC has this useful guide for college students to follow, and individual schools have their own COVID-19 prevention strategies that are just a Google search away. But since you can never be too cautious, it might be best to make your own rules (in addition to the ones the experts advise) to prevent COVID-19 transmission as much as possible.

If you’re living in dorms or attending classes on your college campus, here are some measures to take to protect your health: 

1. Create a bubble.

Since colleges can be as big as some major towns, it’s completely impractical to try and social distance with every single student. It also won’t be much fun if you do.

Instead, it’s better to restrict your interactions to a handful of close friends so you can minimize your coronavirus exposure.

When socializing during a pandemic, you have to remember that by exposing yourself to one person, you’re also exposing yourself to everyone they’ve interacted with recently. So, if you hang out with a friend who’s been going to frat parties, you may as well have gone to that party, too.

So, who should be in this bubble? Restrict it to just your roommates, your significant others, and maybe one or two friends. These are the people you can hang out with without wearing a mask or social distancing; they can come over for movie nights or for weekend drinks.

Set some ground rules so no one is moving between multiple bubbles or putting you at risk. This way, you have a small number of people from whom you will contract or transmit the virus.

2. Don’t go to parties.

This should go without saying, but just in case some of you needed to hear it, please avoid large gatherings at all costs.

Not only is it unsafe for your health, it’s probably forbidden by your school because of the virus. So even if that guy/girl you have a crush on has invited you over for a rager, the best thing you can do for yourself (and for them) is stay home!

It might not be the college experience you’d envisioned for yourself since high school, but the sooner we get this virus under control, the sooner we can go back to partying away our GPAs.

3. Socialize at a distance.

Maintaining a bubble and avoiding parties doesn’t mean you have to wave goodbye to all of your extended friends, nor should it stop you from making new ones. Just like in the summer of lockdown that has just passed, socializing from 6 feet apart is still the safest thing you can do when hanging with friends.

Meet up with friends for walks and keep your masks on while you stroll. Invite friends for coffee after class in an outdoor space where it’s easy to maintain a distance.

College life might be forever changed, but it’s still a great time to form lasting friendships, you’ll just have to do so while standing far apart. 

RELATED: How To Find Real Hope When Facing Uncertainty During The COVID-19 Pandemic

4. Sanitize wherever you go.

Forget your keys, wallet and phone — hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and a mask are the only essentials you don’t want to leave your dorm without.

College campuses are full of communal spaces, from laundry rooms to classrooms, and even though your school might claim to be regularly cleaning these spaces, it’s always better to take matters into your own hands where possible.

Wipe down any spaces, counters, desks, or washing machines you use before touching them. Use your hand sanitizer after you touch door handles or surfaces, and wash your hands thoroughly as often as you can. 

5. Bring your own kitchen supplies.

If you’re sharing a kitchen with an entire dorm hall or people outside of your bubble, it could be a good idea to have your own cooking utensils to avoid using shared items.

You can carry down whatever items you need, like you would do with a shower caddy; that way you’re responsible for keeping them clean. You could even go halves with your roommate to cut costs and save on space in your dorm room.

If you don’t want to do this, make sure you’re washing any communal items before and after you use them, just in case others aren’t cleaning them properly. In their guidelines for shared housing, the CDC recommends using gloves when handling unwashed communal items, and washing them with hot water and soap or in the dishwasher. 

6. Take your dining hall meals to-go.

If your school has a dining hall, they’ll have their own rules in place to protect you when eating meals, so you will have less concerns there than in your shared kitchen.

To ensure you’re not eating around other people without masks, it’s probably best to take your food to go and eat it in your room or outside, away from others. Since most dining halls will now be offering disposable utensils and food packaging, you don’t need to worry about dishes being clean.

If you're eating in the dining hall, you will have to sit 6 feet apart from any other diners to minimize transmission. But this is kind of ideal. Who wants to listen to the sounds of strangers eating anyway?

7. Don’t touch your face in public.

If 2020 could be summed up in one phrase it would probably be, “Don’t touch your face.” But it really cannot be said enough.

With all the communal spaces that schools have, you never know what has or hasn’t been adequately sanitized. Since your hands can easily transfer the virus from any surfaces you touch to your mouth, nose, or eyes, it’s best to just avoid touching these areas altogether. And that includes touching the outside of your mask

8. Wear your mask.

Speaking of masks, wear one!

The CDC has been nothing but supportive of mask-wearing over the last couple of months, and global evidence points to a reduction of coronavirus cases in places where masks are frequently worn.

When you're outside your dorm room or home, you should keep your mask on at all times, except if you’re eating or drinking, of course. Lots of schools are making mask-wearing mandatory in classes or on-campus, so don’t get caught without one! 

9. Keep windows open.

Since coronavirus is an air-transmitted disease, it’s most commonly caught indoors where air circulation is inhibited. You’ve probably already heard experts recommending we socialize outdoors, and this is why.

Since colleges are full of stuffy classrooms and cramped dorm rooms, coronavirus is going to love the lack of ventilation. The easiest way around this is to simply open a window in every room you hang out in so that enough airflow gets in and viral droplets won’t carry through the stagnant air.  

10. Make use of online classes.

Since a lot of colleges are moving their classes online, now is a good time to opt for these courses if you want to minimize your coronavirus exposure.

If your school is offering any in-person classes, choose just a couple that you think are essential or ones that you absolutely can’t do online. Make sure to read up on your school’s social distancing guidelines to ensure you feel comfortable with the measures being put in place to maintain distance in classrooms. 

RELATED: 6 Things To Remember When (Safely!) Hanging Out With Friends

11. Know your school’s rules.

Every campus is different and most schools will have rules that extend beyond the classroom. These rules are put in place for your safety and for the safety of others, so make sure you’re following coronavirus guidelines to avoid getting in trouble or sick.

A lot of cases on the rise in the US are due to people disobeying important rules. If you’re moving states for college, it’s likely that your new state has a different set of rules than what you’ve been practicing in your hometown for the summer.

Make sure to be aware of state-issued guidelines in your college town, too. 

12. Remember that sharing is not caring.

If your friend asks for a sip of your water, a classmate asks to borrow a pen, or someone in your dorm hall asks for a bite of your dinner, the answer is always no.

This might come across as stingy, but you’re protecting yourself, them, and anyone either of you have contact with by minimizing opportunities to transmit the virus.

On the other side, if you’re the friend that’s always in need, now is the time to start bringing your own water, pens, and snacks out and about with you. 

13. Beware of communal bathrooms.

Communal showers and toilets were always the grossest thing about college, but now, more than ever, we need to be aware of our hygiene when using these spaces.

Bring a tote bag or caddy with you to keep your belongings in order and to limit contact with other surfaces. When brushing your teeth, make sure to never place your toothbrush directly on to the sink in case it hasn’t been sanitized recently. 

14. Practice self-care.

Coronavirus isn’t the only health risk you need to protect yourself from. Going to school during a pandemic can take its toll on your mental health, especially if your aspirations for your college-life have been halted by the cancellation of parties, sports, or group gatherings.

Make sure to look after yourself by staying stocked on face masks, books, or whatever else you use to relax and unwind.

Bring a yoga mat with you from home so you can meditate or do workouts in your dorm room. Go for jogs or walks outside. Call your friends and family regularly. Your mental health is just as important as your physical health, and you can’t have one without the other. 

15. Speak up in unsafe situations.

Since not everyone will be as cautious as they should be, it’s important to be vocal when social distancing rules are being broken.

If too many people are gathering in the kitchen, standing in large groups in the halls, or getting too close to you in class, you have every right to calmly call them out for it. If these problems persist, speak to your RA or college faculty to arrange more rules to be put in place.

Successfully flattening the coronavirus curve depends on all of us following rules and holding each other accountable.  

16. Get tested.

Anything from a stuffy nose to a headache could be a symptom of coronavirus, so make sure to check in with yourself regularly so you catch symptoms early and get tested.

Not only will this ensure you get the help you need, but it also means you’ll protect others by isolating before you spread the virus. Equally, if you’ve recently come into contact with someone exhibiting symptoms, suggest they get tested and isolate until they get their results. 

RELATED: 20 Inspirational Quotes For College Students To Keep You Motivated

Alice Kelly is a writer and storyteller with a passion for lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics. When she’s not creating content for YourTango, you can catch her working on creative fiction and vintage shopping.