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Pandemic! At the disco

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The sun goes down on Washington Street, "The Strip" on August 19, 2020 in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Just before classes started at Oklahoma State University last Monday, many students decided to crowd Washington Street’s bars last weekend without regard to the CDC’s social distancing guidelines.

The crowds of students appeared in a viral video posted by The O’Colly, leading many to take to twitter to express concerns about attending class this semester

"No way this goes well," said OSU student Preston Moore. "There's just no way."

"Quit being stupid and stop congregating in such large crowds during a pandemic," OSU student Layne Turner said in a tweet. "If you are one of these people, you are part of the problem. Life will not return to normal so long as people like this keep contributing to the status quo."

In addition to students, some faculty members are also pessimistic about the future effects of these crowds.

"This is very disappointing, frightening and 100% predictable," said OSU professor Dr. Thad Leffingwell.

Other faculty members pointed out there is an inherently a different level of risks associated with COVID-19 infection for college age students, and their professors.

“Going to class will be the safest thing many students do, while it's one of the riskiest things for faculty, and can have worse outcomes,” tweeted OSU professor Isabel Álvarez Sancho “It's very disappointing (OSU President Burns) Hargis announced his reopening plan before consulting with faculty.”

These videos surfaced the day after OSU’s Pi Beta Phi sorority had 23 members test positive for COVID-19. While some students and faculty members expressed doubts over the semester’s beginning, there's also a large number of students who expressed confidence in going to the bars and resuming normal life. 

"Everyone needs to get over this its communism by tellin us what to do and not to do LIVE YOUR LIFE everyone will be immune to it by the end of the year whether you have it or the antibody STILL LESS DEATHS THEN THE COMMON FLU," OSU student Ethan Jones said in a tweet.

According to reporting by The New York Times, the coronavirus is both more deadly and more contagious than the flu so far.

Following the release of the videos of long lines outside of bars, both university and city officials moved to respond, and take action.

"Oklahoma State University is disappointed in the behaviors exhibited by some of our students off campus over the weekend," Hargis said in a statement sent to students. "Attending large dance parties where neither mask wearing nor social distancing occurred showed a clear disregard for the protocols set forth by both the university and the city of Stillwater. OSU and city officials have communicated behavior expectations to limit the spread of COVID-19, and a successful, in-person instructional experience requires everyone to take personal responsibility.

"We ask that our students follow university and city protocols, avoid large gatherings, practice social distancing and wear masks, and appreciate the vast majority of those who are taking our guidelines seriously as evidenced by a .7% positive rate on move-in day. The in-person campus experience we all love here at OSU depends on it this semester."

As for the city’s response, Stillwater Mayor Will Joyce implemented several new restrictions to bars. A city emergency order, issued on Wednesday, will require bars to operate with limited capacity. The order also included a ban on standing next to occupied tables, required the closure of dance floors and other standing areas, and implemented a face covering mandate for those not sitting and consuming food or drink at tables.

“Several local bar owners reached out to me in July to discuss the measures they've adopted to keep their patrons safe,” Joyce said in a tweet. “Many of them are already taking precautions similar to what's in this new declaration, and I appreciate the responsible steps they have taken.

“But it's also clear that not everyone is choosing to be safe, so these rules seek to level the playing field. The rules are also designed to reinforce to bar patrons how important it is to wear masks and maintain physical distance.”

Another relevant issue is how these crowds could relate the status of college football. Some members of the OSU football team, who may have to go to class with some of the bargoers during the week, shared their initial thoughts on these crowds via Twitter. 

"Yup.. I’ve decided.. I’m not going to class Monday," said OSU safety Tre Sterling.

"'We want a season,' yeah ight....." said OSU defensive lineman Collin Clay.

In response, coach Mike Gundy confirmed that 75% of his athletes are taking mostly online classes this semester. 

While some athletes look at these videos and think about the implications of the upcoming season, OSU quarterback Spencer Sanders sees it as an overall human issue.

“If that’s what you do, that’s what you do. But you know, you’ve got to think about it,” Sanders said. “Say one of these kids goes to The Strip (Washington Street) and he’s got a grandpa, and he gets COVID. And he goes home to his grandpa he lives with, and (the grandpa) dies because he gets COVID... How is that person going to feel knowing that maybe he transmitted his COVID to somebody? Or what if that was his mother, his father, just anybody?

“I think once people put it in a certain perspective of ‘Is it going to be your mother you’re passing it to, or is it going to be somebody else’s mother?’ I think that will give them a great viewpoint on how they would view it. I mean, nobody wants to lose their mother or father.”

editorinchief@ocolly.com