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  • By O'Tia Prioleau

How students are entertaining themselves during the pandemic

Socializing is a big part of people’s lives, but COVID-19 has put a limit on that tremendously.

Many stores and restaurants have reopened, but others remain closed due to safety purposes. In March, almost everything was shut down in Conway and Myrtle Beach. Now that most students have returned to campus, it is not the same for businesses that are up and running.

Director of Operations Jeff Kowalski for Top Golf in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, has been in the business for 28 years and mentioned that business has always been the same.

“Not a real focus on sanitation [as far as the customer is concerned]. We didn’t change our practice [because] we sanitized everything, but our guest [never worried about it]; they didn’t look for social distancing or barriers to talk to people,” Kowalski said.

Now that they have reopened, Top Golf is all about safety. They have put up borders, signs requiring masks and sanitation stations at every play.

"You have to react and not only in the business but in life and I think that is the difference I’ve seen after being in this business a very long time where there is a portion of people that are going to be sensitive to it, a bigger portion in the middle that is somewhat vibrant and then of course there is a smaller ratio who doesn’t care,” Kowalski said.

When the shutdown happened in March, Top Golf ensured they took care of their staff, because no one was able to work. They continued insurance benefits for their employees and covered the cost, since they did not know how long the closure from March 17, was going to last.

They reopened on June 8, 2020. College Night was a big part of Myrtle Beach’s Top Golf culture, but once the pandemic hit, that had to change. Kowalski unfortunately mentioned that College Night probably will not happen again until 2021, or until a cure for the virus surfaces.

Kowalski does want to congratulate the Mission Control at the home office.

“Our VP of Operations, our COO, all of these folks were a part of our Mission Control. They gathered all of this information on what are CVC guidelines [and more] and set it up for us with a play book and all we had to do was run with it. [Mission Control] got us prepared to open and [they made sure to look at other businesses as well in the process],” he said.

While Kowalski is aware that some people are nervous about the pandemic, he wants to ensure others and his associates that they have regulations, so that Top Golf is a safe place for all.

Even with the precautions many places have put in place, for some students, it just isn’t enough to make going out feel safe enough.

Senior Jerrica Nesmith was initially going to room with someone this semester, but she decided to withdraw her housing application for safety purposes. Even though her friends will be returning to campus, it was a decision that she pondered, and eventually came to the conclusion to minimize her travels and stay home due to COVID-19.

Nesmith played rugby on campus and that is one of the clubs that took an unfortunate hit when students were sent home this past March. Nesmith wishes she had done more with her family and friends before the pandemic started.

“I took for granted my free time and now I’m just suffering for it. I would go out shopping sometimes, get my nails done, go out to eat with friends and just smaller simpler things before COVID,” she said.

She regrets the fact that she is unable to do any of the activities she did in the past. While she recollected on bygones, she developed new interests. Nesmith has become interested in Rubix cubes and has also been reading a lot more.

Nesmith recommends that everyone attempts a new hobby they have never tried. Some of which could be exercising, making a routine, creating meal plans, or even starting to read more. Nesmith is advocating that people be more considerate when it comes to others and to not dismiss the situation at hand.

Mary Tacconi, CCU senior, lived in an apartment in Conway until May, when she returned to New York. When she returned home, she felt the loneliness in the air of the Big Apple. The only thing there was to do was go to the grocery store.

Before the pandemic hit, Tacconi and her friends would spend most of their free time together at the beach. Now she has spent most of that free time painting and creating her own Do-It-Yourself projects.

“It’s sad that I can’t remember what it was like before and this is kind of the new normal, having to wear a mask everywhere and [having to go down certain aisle particular ways in store],” she said.

She encourages everyone to video chat with friends and family or hosts game nights through Zoom, so that the presence of togetherness is still there. While Tacconi understands this is a hard time for everyone, she just wants everyone to be safe.

“Just wait for the light at the end of the tunnel; hopefully this will all be over soon and we can get back to what life was like before, but for now do what you think is going to make you happy [while social distancing],” said Tacconi.

Senior Yuliya Glasby lives locally with her husband and kids. Before the pandemic, she and her friends would enjoy time together, now her world revolves around cooking. Since she has had so much time on her hands, she worked on her skills in the kitchen.

“At first, back in March, April, I was trying not to go to places at all, but now I am use to it, I just put my mask on and go. Life goes on and sometimes you just need groceries and you do get tired of sitting at home,” she said.

If Galsby was able to go back in time, she would have enrolled her daughter in a different school and signed her up for different activities, because many places are still closed at this time.

“Go with the flow [and] do not stress too much because [we cannot] guess what is going to happen. We do not know how long this semester is going to last [because] it might close again in the middle of the semester [considering the fact] that some schools are going a hundred percent online,” Galsby said.

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