One year ago, this would have been the start of a weeklong spring break. But this year, spring break was canceled at the beginning of the semester to discourage students from traveling.
While I was disappointed that I would not be able to travel for spring break during my senior year, I wouldn’t feel right traveling in the middle of a pandemic.
I understand why others may be tempted to pack their bags, hop on a plane and escape the recurring snow in Philadelphia. Students need a break in the middle of 14 weeks of uninterrupted classes, but they should do so by taking time for themselves and finding leisurely, safe activities in the city, not by journeying across the country and tuning into online classes from afar.
In addition to being cooped up for a year, students were snowed in twice last month. The weather in Philadelphia is cold and dreary, which can contribute to seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression typically experienced in winter, according to Mayo Clinic.
In adolescence and early adulthood, the part of the brain most sensitive to social rewards develops faster than the part responsible for rational, consequence-driven decision making. Teens and young adults also thrive off social connections to build their identities, something they can’t do when they’re trapped inside, CNN reported.
Therefore, students are more likely to make impulsive, risky decisions and ignore social distancing.
On top of seasonal depression and cabin fever, students are afflicted by pandemic fatigue, so after having spring break taken away, it’s not surprising that they would want to travel anyway.
COVID-19 cases are “extremely” high, and people should delay unnecessary travel, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Although students may feel well, they could spread COVID-19 to family, friends and strangers during or after travel, according to the CDC.
Students who travel right now could also come in contact with variants that are not as prevalent in Philadelphia and bring them back, said Sarah Bass, a social and behavioral sciences professor.
“Students should seriously consider if the risks of getting COVID-19, or bringing it back to those who aren’t vaccinated yet and are at risk of negative effects, is worth it,” Bass said.
Still, it’s understandable why students are impatient and eager for a traditional spring break, given that they only have two Wellness Days scheduled a month apart, said Sean Williams, a junior computer science major.
“I feel like spring break is something we as students look forward to doing,” Williams said.
Airline travel plummeted last March and April, but since July 2020, the number of passengers who passed through Transportation Security Administration at airports has continued to rise, dipping in late January and spiking again in February, NBC News reported.
As the United States just reached the somber milestone of 500,000 COVID-19 deaths in one year, it doesn’t sit right with me when my friends brag about going to different countries or post pictures of them traveling and partying on their Instagram stories, as if it’s 2019.
Students should avoid unnecessary travel if not for their own health and safety, then out of respect for the health and safety of others, said Cindy Nguyen, a senior Spanish major, who would typically spend this week with her family in her hometown but canceled because of COVID-19.
“I would feel absolutely terrible if I found out someone had gotten sick from COVID-19 because of me, especially my parents or grandpa,” Nguyen said.
Traveling to Cancun, Mexico, or Miami, Florida, for spring break should not be more important than your health or the health of others. Students should continue to follow the four pillars and be safe this spring so that next year we can all have our much-needed postponed and post-COVID-19 vacation.
“Young adults have been a significant reason for [the] spread, but they can also be a significant reason for it not being spread,” Bass said.