Gov. Gavin Newsom lifted the stay-at-home order across California on Jan. 25, which has allowed for more businesses to reopen and Californians to resume a wider range of activities.
A survey distributed by Mustang News on Jan. 25 asked Cal Poly students to rate their risk level associated with activities college students typically engage in like attending gatherings, going out to eat or going for a walk. Mustang News sent the survey to 12 randomly-selected general education classes with at least 60 enrolled students.
The 151 respondents were tasked to note their agreement with Gov. Gavin Newsom’s decision to lift the statewide stay-at-home order. The responses demonstrate the divisive opinions on Newsom’s order.
Mustang News sent out a second survey on Feb. 23 that produced similarly varied responses.
According to food science and nutrition professor Aydin Nazmi, San Luis Obispo has seen a spike in cases following re-openings or holidays. After a year of social distancing and Newsom’s latest decision to lift the order, Nazmi said he worries that residents in San Luis Obispo will start to relax on preventative measures.
“I don’t think we can become complacent,” Nazmi said. “We’re not out of the woods.”
Nazmi is an epidemiologist and assumed the role of presidential faculty fellow for COVID-19 response and preparedness this summer. He worked closely with the county and Cal Poly to prepare for a safe year on campus and in San Luis Obispo
According to Nazmi, the positivity rate of Cal Poly students that get tested on campus is significantly lower than that of the surrounding communities.
“Our students have been great and it’s just reflected in our numbers,” Nazmi said. “There are parties and gatherings… but as a whole, we’re doing great.”
Attending a mask-less party was considered one of the riskiest behaviors some Cal Poly students engage in, according to the survey. On a scale from 1-10 with the highest risk level at 10, the respondents placed the average risk level at 8.38.
Nazmi said he would consider attending a party during the pandemic risky behavior.
“Anywhere where you’re coming into contact with humans that you don’t come into contact with, it’s high risk,” Nazmi said. “Whether it’s one person, two people, or a hundred people, obviously the more the worst.”
Psychology junior Danielle Hyde said that she was not surprised to see people on social media partying around the San Luis Obispo area.
“Just going to a party would be really irresponsible right now,” Hyde said. “Think about all the people that each of those people is interacting with.”
Psychology freshman Sarah Hannaway said that overall she feels that Cal Poly students are too confined right now, especially on campus.
“It’s really unhealthy for people to be locked up all the time,” Hannaway said. “I don’t think it’s fair to expect first-year college students to come to a place where they’re not legally allowed to meet people.”
She said that people should have more autonomy when it comes to outdoor activities.
As restaurants have reopened with outdoor dining and limited capacities, Cal Poly students have been faced with deciding whether they would feel safe and comfortable in a reopened economy.
Students had a varied association with risk and outdoor dining. With an average score of 4.48, the data shows a majority of students associated dining out as “low-risk” by indicating a score less than 5. Despite this, there were still 54 students who marked this activity above a rated 5.
Nazmi said it was a misconception that reopening San Luis Obispo’s economy means safety is not still a priority.
“That’s a false dichotomy,” Nazmi said.
The problem Nazmi sees is some people think that reopenings signal an ability to relax on current restrictions rather than an opportunity to improve safety measures while enjoying some normalcy.
He said that operating outdoors with proper health guidelines can be a safe way to reopen any economy.
Generally, students thought being outdoors was safer than being indoors, even with preventative measures in place.
“Outside is definitely better than inside,” Nazmi said.
In the survey, Mustang News asked students to assess risk-levels associated with outdoor activities, such as going on a walk without a mask on.
Going on a mask-less walk was reported as the least risky behavior which an average of 3.22.
Nazmi said they have no data suggesting that any exposure or infection has taken place in on-campus buildings like classrooms or the Performing Arts Center (PAC).
“Our inside spaces at Cal Poly right now are pretty well-managed,” Nazmi said.
Students responded that they had little concern about getting tested at the PAC with an average student response of 3.36.
Nazmi said he considers on-campus testing to be low-risk and would encourage students to get tested there.
However, some students are hesitant to get tested at the on-going testing site due to the heavy foot traffic. Communication studies junior Dylan Murphy said that he prefers to get tested off-campus out of fear of exposure.
“I’ve tried to get tested at lower traffic spots because I don’t want to catch anything as I’m trying to get tested,” Murphy said.
Murphy said that he believes that Cal Poly students comprise a large portion of San Luis Obispo residents, so the risks that Cal Poly students take can affect the greater community.
“We’re such a big part of this city population-wise that SLO is really going to deal with this the way Cal Poly decides to deal with it,” Murphy said. “I have not always felt like we’re helping the city out.”
Nazmi said he encourages students to approach the pandemic with a collectivist attitude in order to protect the Mustang community and the San Luis Obispo community.