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Covid-19 Abroad: how the pandemic has impacted the college experience in the US

From her college dorm room in Connecticut, Ella McGettigan talks about returning home to an abandoned New York at the beginning of the pandemic, and how Trump’s attitude towards the virus contributed to the massive death toll

The first reported case of Covid-19 in the US was identified on 20 January 2020. It wasn’t until late March, however, that certain states began implementing restrictions – shutting down businesses and imposing stay-at-home orders.

Watch Niamh Alexander interview Ella McGettigan about the Covid-19 crisis a year on in the United States

Donald Trump’s reaction to an almost certain pandemic was to downplay the risks, lulling his supporters into a false sense of security

“Trump just kept belittling the situation and he was saying ‘there is nothing to be worried about, it’s not going to affect us.’ When we got our first case, it was like it was no big deal,” says student Ella McGettigan, speaking to The City from her dorm room in Quinnipiac University, Connecticut.

A shot of Trump Tower. Photo by Priya Karkare on Pexels

If you practised proper social distancing, you were just a diehard liberal and if you were anti-mask then you were just a diehard Trump fan

Ella McGettigan

“If [he] had stated that the coronavirus was something that was dangerous and threatening us, then we would be in a completely different situation right now,” she says.

Trump’s attitude to the pandemic created a huge divide in the country, causing confusion among red and blue states when it came to the level of restrictions.

“If you believed in coronavirus, if you practised proper social distancing, you were just a diehard liberal and if you were anti-mask then you were just a diehard Trump fan,” says McGettigan. 

The divide is also evident in the way colleges in the US have handled restrictions.

McGettigan mentions that some colleges are stricter than others, with students in some areas free to throw parties during the day without any consequences.

Pictured: Covid-19 vaccine vials by Simon Torsten on Pixabay

At Quinnipiac University, however, weekly testing is mandatory and gatherings of more than two people are strictly prohibited.

“It’s hard because I’m in the Greek [i.e. sorority/fraternity] community and we usually do a lot of philanthropic events and fundraisers and obviously we can’t do that, so everything has just been on Zoom,” says McGettigan.

“But down south, people are holding formals with no masks.” 

Contrary to expectations, the US’s vaccine rollout has been a success so far – President Biden surpassed his goal of delivering 100 million vaccines by his 100th day as president on his 59th day in office.

With doses administered currently averaging at 2.5 million per day, the successful rollout will be a point of positivity for a country that had such a rocky initial response to the pandemic.

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