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March 16, 2020

Abhishek Tekumulla: An open letter to bar revelers of the Coronavirus pandemic

Abhishek Tekumulla is a junior at MSU majoring in finance in the Broad College of Business and minoring in global public health and epidemiology. Tekumulla is from Port Huron, MI. This story was originally published on LinkedIn.

Dear College Bar Revelers and Dartiers,

Not to be that guy, but I want to give you my non-statistical take on the COVID-19 pandemic.

When MSU President Stanley issued an e-mail last Wednesday about converting curriculum online, I took part in the joy of being able to attend class in my pajamas. Yet, I was not one of the hundreds lining up at East Lansing’s famous college bars. I love half off at Harper’s and a $5 mug at Lou and Harry’s as much as the next guy, but this week I chose to value both my health and the community around me.

Yes, you’re right, the chances of surviving the virus are high, but the prevalence of symptoms of COVID-19 remain high as well. As college students, we may not even realize we’ve contracted the virus. It could be a minor temperature, or a cough. Regardless, we have a strong enough immune system to get over it within a few days.

Yet, in that period, people around us can also contract the virus, just by being in our presence. From a shake of a hand to a gentle bump at the bar, the virus can spread, but it’s just a cough, right?

When anyone with that “minor temperature” or “cough” decides to interact with older members of the community, it’s a different ball game. Older people aren’t blessed with the healthy immune systems we have.

The virus can give them extreme flu-like symptoms, enough to put them in the hospital. Their chances of a faster recovery are significantly lower and chances of death heighten.

It may not be someone in your immediate family that requires hospitalization, but what's the point of putting someone else at risk?

There’s a simple way of lessening the prevalence of cases and it’s called social distancing, NOT social isolation. Social distancing is simply avoiding large crowds where the virus can spread. Social isolation is a state of complete lack of contact with others, which no one is asking you to do.

It all comes down to a fundamental epidemiology principle: If you limit the risk of exposure, then you'll limit the outcome. Want to have a few beers with your friends at home? Go for it, I’ll even buy.

It’s our civic duty as college students to work together in slowing down this virus for good. Distance yourself and practice good, proper hygiene — it's not that hard. I hope to be kicking back with a few drinks at the bar soon, but for now I’m enjoying extra sleep and time with my family — you should too.

Respectfully yours,

Abhishek Tekumulla