Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

A nearly empty Temple of Zeus on March 18, as students file off campus and adhere to social distancing guidelines.

March 18, 2020

Students On and Off Campus Adhere to Social Distancing Guidelines

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The few students left on a nearly deserted Cornell campus, and those now scattered across the globe, appear to be heeding to recommendations from officials to prevent the spread of COVID-19 – they’re staying home.

After a party-packed weekend, Ryan Lombardi, vice president for student and campus life, sent out an email on Sunday imploring students to follow social distancing guidelines.

Students like Gauri Pidatala ’22, an international student living in Cascadilla Hall, have observed the impact of these guidelines while adjusting to life on an emptying campus.

“Leaving the campus, that’s very tricky for me because if I leave, I might be quarantined for 14 days, possibly by a local government hospital, which is very risky,” said Pidatala.

In the face of travel restrictions that both India and the U.S. may implement to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Pidatala also expressed concerns over if she would be allowed to reenter the U.S. if she left.

While living on the edge of campus, Pidatala has noticed drastic changes in Collegetown and in University buildings.

Pidatala has been eating meals in Collegetown because she is not on a meal plan. She explained that restaurants are changing their policies, and gave the example of D.P. Dough, which now requires online orders and only allows customers in the building to pick up their food.

Pidatala has observed restaurants becoming more deserted, with several such as Wings Over Ithaca and Subway not allowing dine-in anymore. This is in compliance with New York State’s recent order for restaurants to be take-out and delivery only.

On campus, buildings also seem nearly deserted to Pidatala.

“I went to Duffield today, and I was surprised to see that Mattin’s was still open, but it was just weird to see that this really lively place be completely deserted,” she said. “The lively vibe isn’t there anymore. It doesn’t feel like the engineering quad. It’s just really upsetting.”

Ravi Patel ’22 is also still on campus, and plans to stay there at least until the end of the week as he sorts out his travel plans.

Patel observed a similar “eerie” feeling on campus, describing how he barely sees any other students when walking from his West Campus dorm to Central Campus.

Patel also noted the lack of any major social events on campus.

“The majority of social events have not come to fruition, and I think that in the past few days, as far as I can tell, there may be like small groups getting together and things like that, but definitely not on a larger scale,” Patel said, showing a stark contrast with Collegetown parties which were still occurring the weekend after the suspension of classes.

Some students, who left campus soon after classes were suspended, are self-quarantining and social distancing from home.

Taylor Owens ’22, who returned to Wisconsin on March 15, has been in a self-quarantine since she arrived back home.

“Our governor actually said that anyone coming from New York State had to self quarantine for 14 days, so I’m doing that right now. I probably would have done that anyway,” Owens said.

This time has brought Owens some stress because she has a lack of obligations and classes to fill up her time.

“I try to plan out my day a little bit because I am Type A, so the whole concept of not having classes in any capacity is kind of stressful,” Owens said.

Even though Owens is not showing symptoms of the virus, she remains cautious and proactive in preventing its spread.

“I try to limit my exposure to even my mom and my brother a little bit just because I am coming from this highly contagious area. So, I do spend a majority of my time in my room by myself,” Owens said.

Sarah Rosenthal ’20 is also trying to maintain a distance from others while at home in New York City, although she is not under self quarantine. Rosenthal spends most of her time indoors, and leaves the house only to go on runs in Central Park and to shop for groceries.

“If I do go outside, I really try to maintain a 10-foot radius between me and anybody who I come into walking distance of,” Rosenthal said.

In terms of academics, Rosenthal said that the abrupt shift has been “pretty weird … it just stopped all of a sudden. So now, everything’s postponed three weeks and we don’t really know what’s gonna resume after that.”