So. You went out partying on Halloweekend during a worldwide pandemic.

Though this was probably not the greatest decision, it’s also something neither of us can change. No matter how many scolding comments or snide remarks I slide into this story, it won’t alter what happened.

Hounding the people who partied over Halloween is a waste of my time and theirs. Instead, we need to focus on what we can control today.

In the aftermath of Halloweekend, we each have an individual responsibility to reflect on our actions and minimize the collateral damage.

After a weekend of risky business, the goal is no longer to protect the individual from getting COVID-19. It is to stop the individual from spreading it.

As we enter the final stretch of 2020, many are facing the end of an unbearably painful year. But even though 2020 is ending, COVID-19 is not, especially here in Nebraska. Our state is struggling, faced with record-breaking case numbers and a worrying increase in hospitalizations. After months of attempting to contain numbers, Nebraska is in free fall. 

Unfortunately, dear ol’ Nebraska U shares some responsibility for this, especially in Lincoln. College towns in general have seen evident spikes since the beginning of the school year. Blame has been shared by a wide variety of potential sources — Greek life, on-campus housing, classroom procedure, the general selfishness of those darn youngsters — but the trend is unavoidable. Whatever the reason, COVID-19 is on campus. COVID-19 is here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

That established, I could definitely launch into an argument about staying away from parties. Others in our community already have, and their arguments are admirable, valid and necessary.

But it’s naive to assume every UNL student stayed masked up and six feet apart during Halloweekend.

Let’s be honest — we are young and life has been hard. Faced with a crunched academic schedule with no breaks, our academic obligations weigh heavier than ever before. As strange adult-kid hybrids, we navigate civic engagement and employment in a hospitable environment while attempting to learn how the system works. Halloween is the closest thing to a break we’ve had all semester.

This doesn’t excuse partying during a pandemic. Yet as a community, we can’t ignore that parties happen. Halloween is a massive social and commercial holiday — especially for college students. No amount of Instagram reminders and peer pressure is going to change that.

If you spent the weekend bumping elbows with 50 strangers in multicolor lighting, I can’t tell you to hop in the nearest Delorean and send yourself back in time. But I can tell you what to do next. 

It’s a personal choice to decide to go out partying. However, in the age of COVID-19, your choice doesn’t often stay personal. Your actions in the next following days will determine if you are a ripple or a splash in the post-Halloweekend coronavirus wave.

As an individual, you have every right to give yourself COVID-19. But as a member of the UNL, Lincoln and Nebraska communities, it is now your responsibility and duty to limit any collateral damage you may potentially cause. Protect the people you care about and the people they care about.

So as a Halloweekend partier, what should your future look like? Though I don’t have a crystal ball, I do have a numbered list.

1. Minimize your direct contact and shrink your circle of interaction. 

Attend your classes over Zoom for a week and enjoy lectures in your pajamas. Take advantage of mobile ordering and take-out options instead of eating in. Maybe watch movies with the roomies instead of heading down to the Grand. Limit the people you could pass the virus on to, and, as a bonus, you limit the number of remorseful texts you’d have to send informing them of exposure.

2. Watch yourself closely for symptoms. 

During the pandemic, we’ve all had that moment of panic — that sudden sore throat or low-grade fever that terrified us more than any masked — or unmasked, at this point — killer could. A negative test proved us merely paranoid, but in these risky circumstances, listen to your body. Assume symptoms are COVID-19 until proven otherwise. Get tested

3. Encourage those closest to you to follow the same measures. 

If you do come down with COVID-19, chances are it will spread to others, no matter how careful you might be. Especially in traditional dorms, college students closely interact with each other in their daily lives. If you partied hard, tell your roommates to be careful. Of course, they might be upset or annoyed with you, but they’ll be even more upset if they receive a surprise coronavirus scare during dead week. 

In the end, we are young and stupid college students, bound to make mistakes. The college students before us certainly did — yes, even our parents — and the college kids of the future will no doubt have their moments. But we live in a time when our dumb decisions can cause serious harm to others. 

If you made that decision to go out this Halloweekend, make another decision and choose to be responsible for your actions.

Emma Krab is a sophomore English and journalism major. Reach her at emmakrab@dailynebraskan.com