From partying in over-crowded, sticky-floored basements in 2019 to distanced gatherings with masked and vaccinated friends in 2021, the liveliness of campus life has changed drastically throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.
As students adjust to returning on campus this fall, some worry the resurgence of nightlife will exacerbate the spread of COVID-19, while others are putting cares aside and making up for the in-person experiences they missed out on during the past year and a half of remote learning.
Temple University shut down in-person operations in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The university tried to resume in-person instruction during the Fall 2020 semester, but shifted to primarily virtual learning two weeks later after COVID-19 cases spiked among students, primarily because of an increase in social gatherings, The Temple News reported.
This semester, Ellie Miller is being cautious as she has only attended one gathering with six people, all of whom were vaccinated against the virus. She prefers intimate gatherings, rather than large ones, because it is easier to comfortably follow COVID-19 distancing guidelines, she added.
“Just like having close friends nearby and not going to like, big gatherings where I don’t really know if everyone there is vaccinated,” said Miller, a freshman chemistry major.. “Just still keeping it small.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends people avoid large events and gatherings, and wear masks in all public indoor spaces regardless of the size of the gathering, according to its website.
Shannon Lind has noticed fewer students going out to bars and restaurants around campus in comparison to previous years, she said.
“There’s definitely some changes,” said Lind, a senior risk management and insurance major. “A lot more people are cautious of COVID, so as you’re turning back to normal, there is basically a new normal, a new standard, I’d say.”
Lind believes the new standard for going out is having fun but in a safe and responsible way. While masks and social distancing have eased some students’ anxieties, she is still hesitant to gather in larger groups or indoors, she said.
“It’s more like either outdoor events rather than like just house parties where you’re secluded, or like backyard things, and definitely less people,” Lind said.
Sammi Lin, a sophomore finance major, is not concerned about contracting COVID-19 while attending both large indoor and outdoor gatherings because of Temple’s vaccine mandate and rapid testing, she said.
“I don’t think people are really like that because you can like get tested literally whenever,” she said. “So, I think that’s helpful and also like, [results] comes back in a day now.”
Temple is requiring all students, faculty and staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Oct. 15 after the City of Philadelphia issued a vaccine mandate for all local universities in August. Students who receive an exemption from the university’s vaccine mandate must be tested for COVID-19 twice per week, The Temple News reported.
Lin lived at home her freshman year and is hoping to make up for lost time now that she is on campus more often and taking classes in person. There are parties every weekend off campus with big turnouts of students who are not fearful or hesitant of possibly contracting COVID-19, Lin said.
“I feel like every weekend, we’re always out, just doing something different and just meeting up with our people, meeting new people as well,” Lin said.
As of Sept. 30, there are 36 active COVID-19 cases amongst students and faculty, according to Temple’s COVID-19 tracker.
Alex Tolosa, the manager of Maxi’s Pizza, Subs & Bar, has noticed an increase in business this semester in comparison to last year, even with cases rising and distancing guidelines, he said.
“I used to come into work and it was a ghost town,” Tolosa said. “I was just staring at squirrels and birds flying around. It was horrible.”
As of the end of August 2020, there were more than 6,000 bars and nightclubs that closed since the beginning of the pandemic, according to Yelp’s 2020 Local Economic Impact report. Of those closures, more than half were permanent, according to the report.
This year, Maxi’s is operating at full capacity and is requiring customers to provide proof vaccination to enter the bar, Tolosa said. This is allowing for bigger crowds and more activity throughout the entire week in comparison to last year, when the bar ran at 25 percent capacity, he added.
”It’s hard to move in here some nights, but it is manageable,” Tolosa said.
With campus activity returning to pre-pandemic levels,, Lind noted that students, herself included, seem more inclined to go out, and personally hopes to explore the city more and get involved with recreational sports.
“I feel like I want to have more experiences now that I know like, the whole world can just basically shut down like right away,” Lind said.