This week the Near West Side interviewed residents of Milwaukee’s Avenues West Neighborhood about how COVID-19 has impacted their community and daily life. For this neighborhood we specifically chose to interview college students from Marquette University’s campus in the Avenues West Area. These interviews were different from some of our other neighborhood interviews, as the Marquette students have only lived in the neighborhood for around three years. However, these students still provided an interesting perspective on how the COVID-19 Pandemic has affected their day to day life.

The first student I interviewed moved back to Milwaukee in mid may to move into her new apartment and to begin her internship. Shortly after moving back into the neighborhood she was informed that her internship would be entirely taking place online, completely upending her plans for working this summer and forcing her to adapt to a new working style. Many students found themselves in the same position, moving back to the city after their semester ended to find themselves in a completely different situation than what they expected. However, internships and summer jobs are not the only problem created by the pandemic, social gatherings and other events that can lead to the spread of the virus have presented themselves as new challenges.

For the majority of my interviews I chose to focus on how college students day to day lives had been affected by the virus, as many Marquette students have different perspectives of the virus regarding its severity and danger. Almost all of the students that I interviewed recognized that COVID-19 presented a major danger to the campus, however some students interviewed seemed to take the virus more seriously than others. One student I interviewed had this to say about the virus in the Avenues West Neighborhood.

“At the start of the summer right after most major quarantine restrictions were lifted, students returned to campus ready to see friends and socialize after spending months at home in quarantine. People still took it somewhat seriously, but after bars opened people started to act like everything was normal. So many people would go out to bars and large parties without worrying about the virus.”

As the summer has continued on, more and more students have started testing positive for COVID-19, students have started to pay more attention to the virus, and have started wearing masks almost everywhere.

Personally, as a Marquette student I have personally seen people ignore social distancing guidelines, the virus really only started to hit home for people once people in their lives started to contract it. Although the virus is much less deadly on younger people, Marquette students still have a responsibility to wear masks and social distance to the best of their abilities to slow down the spread of the virus and protect the most vulnerable members of society. Wisconsin and other states that opened early have seen massive spikes in COVID-19 cases in young people, who view themselves as immune to the virus.

This graphic released by Los Angles county highlights the spike in the ages 18-40 age group.

Recently Marquette University announced that MUPD would be policing social gatherings of more than ten people in an attempt to reduce the spread of the virus on campus. I asked my interviewees what they thought of this move. Most understood the need to enforce social distancing, yet others still expressed their reservations about the policy, still attempting to cling to a normal college experience in the face of this deadly virus. Personally, I agree with Marquette that these gatherings need to be broken apart, as it seems like each week I hear of a massive party infecting dozens more Marquette students. If college students cannot be trusted to slow down the spread of the virus, it is necessary that the University take steps to do so to protect the neighborhood and increase the likelihood of in person classes next fall.

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