In March 2020, when schools and jobs were shut down at the beginning of quarantine, there were less than 200 reported cases of the novel coronavirus in Utah per day.
Since the reopening of schools, restaurants, and churches, new cases of COVID-19 have regularly exceeded 1,000 a day since Sept. 17. This trend has caused alarm among Salt Lake Community College students, and to some, it feels like this could be the new normal.
Mike Strickler, a communications major at SLCC, said he worries the high numbers are the new normal, at least until people start wearing masks regularly and take social distancing seriously.
“As people continue to traffic false information and mislead others, case counts will inevitably continue to rise,” Strickler said. “As we move into colder months, I expect to see a dramatic rise in cases combined with a total mishandling from both state and federal government.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, declared, “I’m almost certain it will come back, because the virus is so transmissible and it’s globally spread.”
SLCC, meanwhile, made several changes in the months since COVID-19 first hit.
Like most other public buildings, SLCC requires students, employees and visitors to wear face coverings in all public and private spaces on campus. Masks are also mandatory in all public spaces, including outdoor areas, if six feet of social distancing is not possible.
SLCC also cut building hours of operation and has limited capacity in meeting areas. The Grand Theatre postponed its fall productions for the time being, and all athletic events have been postponed until spring 2021.
SLCC student Sarah Bridge, who is pursuing a video/radio production major, said fewer people seem panicked now compared to spring.
“It does seem to feel like the new normal to have cases in the thousands,” Bridge said. “We’ve all become a little numb and let our guards down to where we have returned essentially to normal life.”
If this laid back approach continues, Bridge said she “wouldn’t be surprised if cases are doubled by winter.”
Journalism and digital media major Bailee Jessop, however, said she thinks the precautions have been extreme.
“This whole thing has been blown out of proportion,” Jessop said. “I understand the dangers this can bring to some, but I think forcing people into isolation is extremely more damaging. People need people.”
While the environment has been called “the new normal,” Jessop argued she finds nothing normal about “a world full of covered faces.”
“I don’t know about you but I need to see smiling faces,” Jessop said. “I’m hopeful that in the near future, I will see our freedom being restored in the fact that the people will get to choose whether or not they wear a mask.”
For now, SLCC students are asked to abide by the school and state’s COVID-19 policies.