Rules for thee but not for me: Dealing with roommates who aren’t COVID-19 cautious

Photo of someone wearing their mask improperly
David McAllister/Staff

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There is a never-ending list of problems that the COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled or created. For me, the pandemic has revealed that I may need new roommates because I learned that my current ones don’t agree with me on what “safe” and “good judgment” mean.

For me, being COVID-19 cautious means limiting my social circle to the same two or three friends, wearing a mask when I’m in public and getting tested if I come into contact with someone who has been around a lot of people. For my roommates, being COVID-19 cautious seems to mean choosing a new friend group of five or more to hang out with each week, inviting people who live in sororities and fraternities over to our place without our consent and ignoring me when I bring up these concerns.

I may sound petty, but my health is on the line. I made a commitment to be safe and protect their health, but what do I do when that contract is broken? Communication solves all. So, here is some advice for navigating situations in which your non-COVID-19 cautious friends break the social contract. If you can’t find the courage to talk to them yourself, maybe you should send them this article as a hint!

“But I just got tested so I’m, like, totally fine.” 

I hate to break it to you, but a negative test result doesn’t count if hours later you’re back to hanging out with different people from the week before. Yes, you might get a negative result, but you could have caught the virus from hanging out with your new group. Your best bet is to choose a small bubble (three to five people) and stick with it. 

“It’s only a few people hanging out at (insert fraternity/sorority house here).” 

Only hanging out with a few people would be fine if the people you’re hanging out with also had a small bubble. Unfortunately, if your friends from fraternities or sororities are hanging out with you and they live with a lot of other people, and those people hang out with other people, and those people hang out with even more people … I think you get the point. It’s hard to keep your bubble small when you all hang out with different people at different points in time. While I don’t know the official rules at fraternities or sororities, from what I’ve seen on Snapchat, y’all aren’t keeping it safe. Stop the partying and be smart. You go to UC Berkeley, after all! 

Their mask doesn’t fit their face correctly 

Wearing a mask and wearing a mask correctly are not the same thing. You can buy surgical masks that have a nose wire to keep your mask up. If you want to be more environmentally cautious, make a fabric mask that fits your face. Masks have become a part of our daily lives for the foreseeable future at this point, so it’s worth investing in some comfortable ones that fit you properly.

You walk out of your room to see a stranger on the couch 

If there wasn’t a global pandemic that’s killing hundreds of thousands of people in our country right now, this wouldn’t be a big deal. Unfortunately, since this nightmare situation exists, this is a huge deal. Who this person has been in contact with, if they’ve been tested recently and how cautious they’ve been are all unknown to you. Consent is everything. It’s important to remember that consent isn’t reserved just for certain intimate relationships. I can consent to have a stranger who may or may not be carrying the virus in my own home, or I can refuse to consent. If I refuse to consent, they must respect this decision for my sake and theirs and adjust their actions accordingly. 

Rooming with your friends is already hard, but rooming with your friends during a pandemic adds another level of complexity that reveals their true values. Do they care for the collective well-being, or do they care more about their selfish desires for instant gratification? Navigating these issues in the midst of online school is a challenge for sure. But someone has to keep it real. Your health and the health of our entire community rely upon being able to have open and honest conversations with your roommates when you see these problems arise. Good luck, Bears.

Contact Özge Terzioğlu at [email protected].