Over the past couple weeks, Centre County has made the transition into the green zone of Governor Wolf ‘s plan for COVID-19 recovery. As a result of this transition, bars and restaurants are beginning to once again open their doors for business. Although it is important for local businesses to be building themselves back up as we come out of this pandemic, the reopening of certain establishments makes returning to State College an appealing option for many students.
With a large majority of students continuously paying rent for apartments in the State College area, it would be unfair to say that they cannot take advantage of what they’re paying for. However, coming back to State College should be done thoughtfully and with consideration of local residents. If students have not stayed in their apartments during quarantine, it is important for those from red zones and other heavily affected areas to stay where they are in order to refrain from putting Centre County residents at risk.
It’s easy to view State College as simply a college town that revolves around Penn State, fueling the local economy. In reality, it is much more than that. It is a home to plenty of people that view State College, aside from it being the home of Penn State.
When State College entered the yellow zone, locals began to notice an increase in social activity between students in the downtown area. For many people who live here, this lack of social distancing has been frustrating to see.
Students have been seen partying at apartments, houses and frats with a clear disregard to social distancing guidelines, even when Centre County was not yet transitioning into the green phase of reopening.
“I’m incredibly disappointed in my fellow students’ lack of respect for the State College community during this pandemic,” says rising sophomore and State College local, Abbie Loviscky. “The number of fraternities, and other students, that felt they had a right to put the State College community at risk by continuing to have large social gatherings is disturbing and showed me how little Penn State students actually care about the community that lives here.”
Other students feel the same way. “I think that students returning to State College to party and socialize is disrespectful to the locals, the healthcare workers, and at the at-risk population that resides in Centre County,” says rising Penn State junior and State College townie, Avery Belser. “Not only that, but the increase of cases that will inevitably follow students to Centre County will threaten our opportunity to return to in person classes in the fall.”
Centre County, and State College specifically, has been diligent in flattening the curve and putting the least amount of people at risk as possible. As of now, Centre County has had only 156 confirmed cases. With a large percentage of the student population gone, it has been easier for State College to transition from the red zone, to the yellow zone, and finally to the green zone most recently.
With a return to State College, students have to realize that they are shopping at the same grocery stores, getting takeout from the same restaurants, and going into the same stores as State College residents. This town is not just made up of the 18-22 year old population — there are people of all ages here who live there and need to be protected by the rest of us.
Rising sophomore and State College local Abby English says, “I am concerned that students from red/yellow zones returning to University Park campus will have a very negative impact on the progress Centre County has made in minimizing the virus’s impacts here.”
Statistics show that a strong majority of coronavirus cases in the United States have occurred in more heavily populated cities and areas in the northeast including New York City, Philadelphia, and some areas of New Jersey. Many Penn State students are from these areas of the country. If more and more students start to come back due to State College entering the green zone, the progress this town has made could quickly be erased.
When it comes down to it, students are going to return to State College this summer despite the circumstances. After being in quarantine for months and missing out on the majority of spring semester, many students are obviously eager and excited to return. If you do choose to return to State College before the fall semester, take the appropriate precautions for yourself and the people around you. Treat State College like your home, not just somewhere you go to school.