Coronavirus General health interview

A Covid tale of two cities

The US has been divided in its response to the pandemic. Jessica Viola explores these differences with Tara Wiekert and Julia Hadley, two students in two very different states
Beaming Tara Wiekert (left) enjoys a brew indoors at a bar in Tuscaloosa, while Julia Hadley (right) is smiling through her state-mandated mask outdoors in Boston. Photos courtesy of Tara Wiekert and Julia Hadley

In North America, each state decides on its own Covid-19 regulations. Different states can have radically different restrictions – changing the experience of the pandemic for their residents.

A part of Biden’s 2020 presidential campaign was the requirement of masks to be worn throughout the US as he stated it could “save 100,000 lives” if masks were made mandatory to wear in every state.

Less than a month into his inauguration, President Biden has already pushed nationwide mandates, requiring masks to be worn by all Federal employees and by those who use public travel throughout the US.

However, social distancing regulations are very different depending on the state.

Answering the same set of questions, two students who reside in different states share their lifestyle and opinions with Jessica Viola on the Covid-19 pandemic.

Tara Wiekert lives in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and studies advertising with a minor in German at the University of Alabama.

Julia Hadley is a health science major at Boston University in Boston, Massachusetts. These responses are based on the student’s opinions as well as on their state’s individual regulations. 

What is your opinion on Covid-19 now, in 2021? 

Tara Wiekert: “I think it’s serious and something everyone needs to be made aware of. I know it affects older people more severely, which is why I think a lot of people at school don’t take it that seriously, since we are in a college town surrounded by people who are all mainly around the age of 20-25.”

Julia Hadley: “My opinion on Covid-19 has remained the same over the past months. It is a very scary time for so many individuals and has affected far too many people. While the vaccination is bringing so much hope for the future, it’s still imperative people take precautions.”

“While the vaccination is bringing so much hope for the future, it’s still imperative people take precautions”

Julia Hadley

What measures are being taken to prevent the spread of Covid-19 in your college?

TW: “The school requires students to be tested for Covid-19 randomly. I try to wash my hands as often as possible, but since life here feels so normal, I do not take immense measures to prevent the spread of Covid-19. I still go out, eat out, and hang out with all my friends the same way as we did before.”

JH: “At BU, students who attend classes on-campus or live on-campus must take a Covid-19 test every three days. When taking a class in-person, students must provide proof of their negative Covid-19 test. Throughout campus, students must wear masks at all times.”

Are you taking college classes in person now and are other work spaces open?

TW: “Alabama is probably one of the states with the least amount of Covid restrictions. We have some in-person classes and some online depending on what the professor prefers. Libraries and other study areas are open, however, you must wear a mask on campus at all times.”

JH: “All students and faculty are required to get a Covid-19 test every 3 days, allowing students to take classes in person, if permitted. Libraries and study areas are open, but space is limited. Students must wear a mask at all times, while also having a negative Covid-19 test result, in order to enter the space.”

“I still go out, eat out, and hang out with all my friends the same way as we did before”

Tara Wiekert

How has socialising been for you in 2021?

TW: “In all honesty, life in Alabama has been rather normal. Bars have been open for a while now. They only shut down at the beginning of last semester for about two weeks.

“All or most college organised events are happening here in Alabama. We just won the National Championship for (American) football.”

JH: “Boston does have indoor dining and restaurants utilise glass shields and place diners a safe distance away from one another. The state’s mandates include setting limits on gatherings, also mask and face-coverings must be worn indoors and outdoors with a capacity limit and there’s a curfew for restaurants as well as businesses.

“At this moment, no organized events are happening within my college campus and are highly discouraged within Massachusetts.”

University of Alabama students celebrating their American football victory in January 2021. Video courtesy of Tara Wiekert

What is your opinion on how your state is handling Covid-19 procedures now?

TW: “In my hometown of New Jersey, my life has changed a lot, and I am able to do a lot less, yet both states seem to be doing ‘fine’. I do think wearing a mask in public should be required for the safety of others and the elderly. However, in Alabama, my life seems rather normal and I often forget Covid-19 is even a ‘thing’. I am doing everything that I used to do even before Covid-19 hit.” 

JH: “Just as everyone around the world, my life has changed since COVID-19. I have limited traveling, restricted seeing people outside of my immediate circle, among many other things. While adapting to our new ‘normal’ has had its challenges, it is a sacrifice I am willing to contribute to keep myself, family, and friends safe during the pandemic and, I am extremely fortunate for their good health thus far.”

“Adapting to the new ‘normal’ is a sacrifice I am willing to contribute to keep myself, family, and friends safe during the pandemic”

Julia Hadley

American universities have been a hot spot for the spread of Covid-19. Throughout the course of the pandemic, more than 85 colleges have had over 1,000 reported cases on campus. In a recent study, 70% of Covid-19 cases in the US have been spread by young aged 20-49 years old.

Although Massachusetts has almost over 2 million more residents in it than Alabama, they comparatively have a little over 72,000 more confirmed Covid-19 cases than this southern state. As it stands now, Massachusetts has 546,800 confirmed cases and Alabama has had 474,666 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic.

Masks, social distancing, and socialising remain hot-button issues – will Biden manage to unite his nation?

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