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Saturday, September 25, 2021

Tough COVID-19 conversations with housemates are inevitable but necessary

It’s important to still be considerate of housemates as restrictions ease and student vaccinations rise

Housemate conflicts are bound to be especially common this year between the new rules of pandemic etiquette and being locked down together 24/7 for months on end. With some restrictions easing, Spring Break approaching and student vaccinations on the rise, it might be time for some tough conversations about pandemic safety.

The unfortunate reality is that it’s incredibly difficult to quarantine one person who tests positive for COVID-19 away from the rest of their housemates in the cramped quarters many students live in. One person flouting COVID-19 safety guidelines could put their entire household at risk, so it’s important to have honest conversations and to call people out for breaking agreements.

Conflict can be intimidating, especially when it’s with someone you live with during a pandemic and can’t get away from, but frank, frequent discussions are the only way everyone in a household can feel heard and safe. As indoor dining opens up in Yolo County and the weather gets warmer, be sure to touch bases with housemates about everyone’s comfort levels and make sure everyone is on the same page before grabbing a drink indoors or going to the gym. 

No one should be partying this Spring Break, but if no amount of arguing can stop someone from drinking cheap beer on a crowded beach, then they at least need to take strict precautions when they’re back in Davis. Encourage them to quarantine as best they can in their rooms, to wear a mask in communal areas and to get tested immediately upon their arrival and at least one more time after that. 

But what if someone is vaccinated—then can they party to their heart’s content without feeling guilty about potentially becoming a superspreader of a deadly virus that has killed over 500,000 people in the U.S.? Still no. Getting vaccinated is incredibly important and everyone should do so when they’re eligible, but being able to return to normal life will be more complicated than receiving the vaccine.

First, it’s important to acknowledge the difference between being vaccinated and being fully vaccinated. If a person receives the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, they must wait two weeks after their second dose before they’re fully vaccinated, and two weeks after receiving a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. 

All three widely-available vaccines—Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson—are very effective at preventing severe sickness and death from COVID-19. At this time, however, it’s uncertain if a person can still be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 even after becoming fully vaccinated. 

The Centers for Disease Control advises that fully-vaccinated individuals can gather with other fully-vaccinated individuals and unvaccinated individuals from a single household indoors and without masks. Despite this new freedom, being fully vaccinated isn’t a valid excuse to disregard safety guidelines or the concerns of housemates. Even if one person is vaccinated, they could potentially put their unvaccinated housemates at risk for COVID-19. 

It’s vital to have ongoing conversations about your household’s comfort with expanding its bubble as more students become vaccinated. Everyone deserves to feel safe and comfortable in their own homes, so try to respect the COVID-19 boundaries of your most cautious housemate. 

And it’s okay to split up with housemates if the pandemic has revealed insurmountable differences. Some people just aren’t meant to live together. Although it’s difficult and potentially costly to break a lease, it’s possible to find other people looking to sublease on social media platforms like Facebook. If that doesn’t work, sign a lease with different people for next year and count down the days until September.

Written by: The Editorial Board

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