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With more than 3,600 confirmed cases of COVID-19 (as of Sept. 8) in Warren County alone, it’s past time to get serious about socially distancing.

In-person and hybrid classes already pose some risk of spreading the still quite at-large virus, and further unnecessary contact with others, on or off campus, poses more risk. Though at one point thought to be relatively harmless to the young and healthy, it has been proven through further study that COVID-19 can have lasting effects on the lungs, heart and even the brain. As such, it is our responsibility as individuals to take caution in exposing others and to be dedicated in practicing effective social distancing.  

So, how then do we — as college students supposedly in “the prime of our lives” — continue to satisfy our social and recreational needs in the midst of a pandemic? Well, I’m glad you asked. Read on to learn about five ways you can hang out with your buddies without being a pathogen! 

Geocaching 

We may be in our late teens to early 20s, but the thrill of treasure-hunting is ageless. How exciting is it to search for a mysterious treasure left behind for a stranger to discover? 

Thankfully, geocaching is an activity that remains strictly outdoors, meaning the infectious threat of enclosed spaces is minimized (though you should still keep your distance). You and your decent-sized band of merry buddies can take to the trails with masks on and a greater sense of security in your part of staying safe and healthy.

 To start the hunt, merely create a free geocaching account online, download the app “Geocaching” onto your phone, and start searching! The app leads you directly to your prize through your smartphone’s internal GPS, allowing you to get some steps in and interact with your pals in an open space. Neat, huh? 

Just remember the golden rule of geocaching: if you take it, leave something behind of equal value!

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Nature walking

If you’re not one for seeking out set destinations (or have merely watched one-too-many horror movies to feel safe enough to do so), nature walking is a perfectly fine alternative to geocaching that allows you to spend time with others without having to be in a confined space.

 With Chuck Crume Nature Park, Fort Webb Park, James Hines Park (which also has a lake for fishing), Lost River Cave and many more, the options for exploring the beautiful green landscapes of Bowling Green are bountiful. And with the addition of a beloved furry companion, the enjoyment of a park is increased by a canine’s simple satisfaction in having a large natural environment to explore.

Humane Society Volunteering

Speaking of furry companions, if you’re without the camaraderie of a four-legged friend, fret not, for there is a place where they are both bountiful and in constant need of both love and attention. At the Humane Society Animal Shelter, volunteer applications are available to pet, play and walk the dogs to your heart’s content. However, if canines are not your forte, there’s also the option of playing with the cat — a volunteering opportunity that feels more like a blessing than a chore. Regardless of your ability to own one, volunteering at the Humane Society is a perfect chance to spend some quality time with some sweet animals in need of a forever-home.

 

Virtual movie streaming

If you’re not feeling up to leaving the house just yet (or in general), another alternative to in-person gatherings is movie streaming apps! An example of such an app is Netflix Party, which allows you to watch movies on the titular streaming service in real time with friends. This eliminates the dangers of in-person hangouts and lets you watch media and talk with your friends like they’re right beside you. 

If Netflix is too bougie for you to claim membership of, however, another streaming tool called Kast allows you to share the contents of your computer screen to up to 100 viewers for free, meaning you can get the whole gang together without ever having to leave the comfort of your couch.

 

Virtual games

If you’re looking for a more engaging activity to share with your friends during these times, multiple services provide cooperative and competitive online games that make for hours of digitally-mediated fun with friends and family.

An example is The Jackbox Party Pack, which when bought gives you five total multiplayer games out of their entire arsenal of thirty. The games range from trivia, competitive comedy, to drawing and much more. With such a variety to choose from, there’s no excuse to not host an enjoyable and satisfying virtual party in substitution for in-person gatherings.

However, if you’re looking for specific thrills, all sorts of online games can be found on all consoles, including your computer. One in particular that has surged in popularity recently is Among Us, a Steam game comparable to Mafia or Werewolf (both games you can also find online) where you must achieve a group goal while combating an unknown and internal antagonistic force: one of your friends. Such games utilize group discussion and speculation to root out the anonymous mutineer among you before they compromise the majority’s objective, making a fun, challenging and exciting activity for you and your comrades to participate in while remaining appropriately apart.

 If we ever want to put the COVID-19 pandemic behind us (and as fast as possible), we all need to acknowledge our part in its spreading. By utilizing the above methods of socialization that allow you to commune with others without physical contact, you can help reduce the continually growing number of cases both in our community and beyond. Remember during this time to stay safe and precautious, but that you can still enjoy yourself thoroughly with others while doing so.

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