This Saturday, Oct. 24, will be Michigan football’s opener. But in a college football season complicated by COVID-19, very little is the same. Now, even with the new stay-in-place order from Washtenaw County, there’s concern building around the degree to which students will try to keep game days feeling the same and the risks accompanying their decisions. The likely main culprit? Tailgates.

The Daily talked to students to hear what they had to say about the possibility and risks of tailgating in the era of COVID-19.

Margaret Greer, LSA senior: I’m worried about it.

Sarah O’Donnell, LSA senior: I feel like tailgates are going to make the COVID problem worse.

Greer: It’s already increasing, Michigan’s cases overall are at a record high since June.

Ketaki Gaikwad, College of Engineering and Ross School of Business sophomore: Tailgating as we’ve seen it in the past years will be very irresponsible and stupid, and that would just cause a massive outbreak of COVID if it were to happen.

Toby Weber, School of Nursing sophomore: It’s really irresponsible and dangerous.

Greer: I assume people are going to be tailgating, seeing more people.

Gaikwad: You can still see a line outside of Brown Jug.

Gaikwad: I don’t see COVID stopping people.

There are safe ways to proceed. The CDC has provided COVID-19 guidelines to sporting events, including tailgates. If tailgates were altered to meet these guidelines, all is well. But if tailgates are held in similar fashion to the past, it would mean ignoring guidelines.

Weber: And if people are tailgating they will be eating or drinking, meaning they won’t have masks on. 

Greer: I’m less worried about this weekend and more worried about future games like (Michigan State) where there’s potentially going to be crossover with campuses and more people inside with each other when it’s colder.

Weber: Huge groups of people packed together tightly in a tiny area breathing on each other is a bad idea. 

Gaikwad: I would be concerned that we were in a six feet radius with our masks off. I would be concerned for my safety at that point.

Megan Guldan, LSA sophomore: I think that you can find a way to do it safely with people you’re already with, like your roommates, in your little COVID bubble. 

O’Donnell: But I’m just more worried about freshmen from the dorms going to off-campus tailgates and spreading COVID that way if they don’t know they have it.

Greer: I think a majority of freshmen will be careful and do care about the health and safety of the other freshman. There’s just so many.

Chris Koch, LSA sophomore: There’s good and bad apples everywhere.

Bradley Andrews, LSA freshman: Yeah, I definitely think the freshmen will still go out and tailgate despite the stay-at-home order.

Weber: No (freshman won’t obey the stay at home order). No. You don’t even have to finish your question. No.

O’Donnell: I also don’t see how this order will be enforced if the University can’t enforce the mandatory testing or enhanced social distancing in Markley.

Gaikwad: As I walked to class today it seemed like the same amount of people as before the order was put into place.

Annabel Curran, LSA freshman: Maybe a little bit less people but I don’t know. I feel there’s not a way where they can enforce it super well.

Outside of Ann Arbor, surrounding tailgates have had effects on case numbers, including at University of Wisconsin, Madison.

Curran: Realistically, there will still be an increase (in cases) despite the stay at home order.

O’Donnell: Cases are already rising on campus.

Gaikwad: It’s going to go up.

Greer: People will still break (the stay-at-home order).

Gaikwad: Seeing as how many students don’t get tested, and they’re not tested as frequently as many other colleges, we don’t even have a good idea of how many cases are on campus currently.

Gaikwad: The chances of them even reporting an accurate answer after the football games and stuff is highly unlikely.

Guldan: Please be safe now so that we can have an actual real semester. 

O’Donnell: Be smart and think about other people.

Weber: Don’t be dumb.

O’Donnell: Be smart and think about the greater good.

Curran: You have to think about how your actions affect others.

O’Donnell:  This isn’t just U of M’s campus. This is Ann Arbor. This is a city where people live.

Weber: And if y’all literally just chill out for the next two weeks, stuff will relax up a bit. 

Koch: Just remember that health is a big concern.

Greer: I want everyone to wear a mask and get tested and just be aware of how their actions can affect other people.

Koch: It is something we have to take seriously.

Weber: But if you don’t, … shit’s going to get worse.

Gaikwad: Don’t be stupid.

Guldan: So we can return back to normal.

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown challenges at all of us — including The Michigan Daily — but that hasn’t stopped our staff. We’re committed to reporting on the issues that matter most to the community where we live, learn and work. Your donations keep our journalism free and independent. You can support our work here.

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