Living on campus during a pandemic


Cincinnati freshman Johnny Evers Smith poses for a photo from the window of his dorm room March 27 on the basement floor of Larzelere Hall. 

Cincinnati freshman Johnny Evers Smith grabbed his backpack from his partially vacated dorm room on the basement floor of Larzelere Hall.

He continued his daily routine as his shadow was cast on the dark cinderblock walls. He flicked on the light of the study room and sanitized the table. 

Evers Smith began recording a video for his American Sign Language class but was interrupted by news of a confirmed case of coronavirus at Central Michigan University. 

"Really?" he said with his eyes wide for a moment. "I guess it was only a matter of time."

Evers Smith decided to remain on campus after many other CMU students chose to stay in or return to their hometowns after spring break. Now, he lives on a college campus infected by COVID-19.

He said his decision to stay on campus has not changed despite the news.

"There's always a possibility that I may have it now, and I don't want to bring it back to my family," he said. "I'm isolated here and there is no way that I can bring it back to my grandparents."

Evers Smith's volunteer positions at an on-campus lab and Listening Ear Crisis Center -- a non-profit organization that gives people an opportunity to voice their worries and troubles -- played heavily into his decision to remain on campus.

"What we do at listening ear is important now," Evers Smith said. "The world is falling apart and people need a place they can go like Listening Ear."

Evers Smith has gotten into a routine to keep himself from sleeping in every day and keep up with classes. While Evers Smith also stays busy with his volunteer positions, he still finds time to practice the piano and binge watch Friends.

Evers Smith previously lived with two roommates. Now, he constantly notices the quietness while walking the hallways alone. However, he attempts to remain positive and see the bright side of things.

"I miss the social interaction, but at the same time, I'm never trying to find alone time," he said. "I never have to wait for laundry or worry about loud neighbors."

Evers Smith said he tries to find social interaction where he can while taking every precaution necessary.

"Every time I have a face-to-face interaction, I'm telling myself in the back of my mind, "Please, don't get coronavirus from this,'" he said. "The worst part of COVID-19 is the fear you might get it."