Going out during COVID

By Anthony Caporale

On May 13, 2021, the CDC updated its mask recommendations, announcing that some normal activities can resume for those who are fully vaccinated. The announcement brings excitement to many of those who have felt the full impact of social restrictions and mask wearing, and the students at Saint Vincent are not exempt from celebration. Looking back, a little over a year has passed since Saint Vincent started experiencing the effects from the pandemic. Much of the off-campus dinning, shopping, and even partying and drinking that students have usually enjoyed, became disrupted by 2020’s pandemic.

Zach Baum, a senior communications major, enjoyed going out to parties, and sometimes Dino’s Sports Lounge, a restaurant in Latrobe, before the pandemic began. That has changed, though, he said.

“It’s definitely harder to go to parties and restaurants now,” Baum said. “Which makes some people frustrated.”

Another Saint Vincent student, who asked to stay anonymous out of concerns over discussing off-campus travel during the pandemic, agrees that students are less likely to leave.

“Other students are going out less to err on the side of caution,” she said.

Personally, she said, she was very cautious about going out early in the year, but after getting vaccinated has begun returning to her earlier routines.

“I was trying to be very safe for a long time in hopes of not contracting COVID due to the fact that I am still living at home with my parents. As mandates are being lifted and I am vaccinated, I am going out more frequently,” she said.

She feels safe since being vaccinated, she explained. She frequently visits Falbo’s Restaurant and Lounge, in Latrobe. She said that Falbo’s does a good job following CDC guidelines.

She is not the only Saint Vincent student who enjoys visiting Falbo’s. An Instagram account of a Falbo’s bartender shows at least 25 different SVC students visiting in the month leading up to the college’s recent shelter-in-place order. In the photos, none are wearing masks.

But in a statement, Falbo’s said that masks were only removed for the photos and are otherwise required.

“We have a mask policy that the mask must be worn into the establishment but once eating or drinking it may be removed. If a person decides to remove a mask to take a picture, it’s their free will. Our bartender wears his mask other than to take a photo if asked too. Also, just for the record, he is fully vaccinated,” the restaurant said.

Falbo’s has also implemented other precautions, according to the statement, including social distancing rules and the use of disposable glasses.

“We have followed every single order that was mandated from day one. Shut our bar and dining room down for months. Only serve alcohol from this time to this time. Only can seat people at tables in the bar. Must purchase food with alcohol. Every single rule has been followed. Every single procedure

that has been asked of us we have followed. While we were following these rules, other bars that SVC students go to have remained open and no rules have been followed. I take pride in my business and would never jeopardize my customers’ well-being in any way. I’ve spent countless dollars on sanitizing and cleaning products, not to mention the countless hours spent cleaning and sanitizing daily,” the statement read.

Some students are less concerned about COVID-19 and more disappointed in the lack of social activities, like another Saint Vincent student who also asked to stay anonymous because of concerns about discussing off-campus travel in light of COVID-19 rules. In the past, she said, she occasionally shopped at Aldi and Walmart. She also enjoyed hiking at the Keystone Park. But her favorite off-campus activity, she said, was actually visiting a pet store.

“The pet store has a room in the back for cats up for adoption, and a few friends and I will usually visit and play with the cats for a few hours.”

But since last year’s beginning of COVID-19, it has been harder and harder to go, she explained.

“It has become much more difficult to find people willing to venture off campus to do these things,” she said.

Some students, she thinks, have now begun socializing more off campus, in order to avoid repercussions.

“I feel like people who want to socialize in a group do so off campus, where it isn’t going to get reported,” she said.

Since the pandemic began, she has enjoyed going to the Coffee Bean Café, in Latrobe, to complete her work.

“I was looking for a place I could get some homework done one weekend, and I found the Coffee Bean! I was able to do some homework and get amazing coffee!” she said.

Unlike some students, she isn’t worried about potential COVID-19 exposure.

“I feel very safe eating out, and that includes the Coffee Bean,” she said.

In fact, she enjoyed going partly because mask regulations did not feel too burdensome or intrusive; for example, she explained, she did not need to worry about trying to eat while wearing a mask.

In a statement, the Coffee Bean explained the measures it has taken to ensure customer safety.

“We wanted to make sure that our customers felt safe during their visit to our café, while keeping their health as well as the health of our employees a priority. From the start of the pandemic, we complied with the suggested pandemic guidelines. We lowered seating capacity, and spaced out our tables while also placing stickers on the ground to remain 6 ft. apart. Signage was visible throughout our café requiring everyone to wear a mask as well as to follow the CDC guidelines. Counter shields were installed, and we offered curbside pick-up for those who were not comfortable entering. We are continuing to sanitize after each table use, and disinfecting highly touched areas throughout the day for everyone’s safety,” the Coffee Bean said.

In the meantime, it seems that there may be light at the end of the tunnel. As vaccination rates rise and CDC guidelines change, students may no longer be obliged to choose between safety and enjoyment

#AnthonyCaporale #COVID19 #StudentLife

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