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Stay Home Or Go Out: College Student Choices Under Scrutiny

Photos and videos circulating on social media purportedly show crowded bars in downtown Bloomington, in apparent defiance of the state's COVID rules.

Twelve Bloomington bars go before the liquor commission hearing Friday over alleged violations of the ban on indoor service to slow the spread of the coronavirus. However, there wouldn’t be violations without customers.

A video circulating on social media purports to show a large crowd last weekend inside Daddios, a downtown bar, in apparent violation of the rules. Somewhere within that video is Illinois State University student Anna Feltes and her friends.

“It was packed as always, nothing different. There were some people wearing masks, the bartenders wore masks, but most people didn't. I and my friends don’t as well, but we also know the risks and we take that upon ourselves,” said Feltes.

Bloomington Mayor Tari Renner, who called the liquor commission meeting and will oversee it, said there were many “totally irresponsible actions” in the city last weekend. The Town of Normal sent warning letters to four businesses that allegedly violated the state’s COVID-19 restrictions.

Feltes said her and her friends already had COVID, and she believes her risk is lower now. (The science is still very much out on that.)

But what about the people who disagree with her actions?

“If that is your belief, I’m totally OK with that. It is just not my belief nor my friends’ and if you would like to stay in, then stay in by all means. But me and my friends are not afraid of the risks and we are going to keep going out,” said Feltes.

Feltes and her friends go out nearly every weekend. Daddios is one of her favorite bars.

“I think I am safe. I feel fine going out, but that is me personally. I know some people are uncomfortable, but I am comfortable with it, so I’m going to keep going out until they do shut down for good,” said Feltes.

College-aged people are the hardest-hit age group for COVID-19 cases in McLean County. Earlier this week, Bloomington-Normal was the No. 2 metro area in the country, per capita, for where new COVID-19 cases were increasing the fastest. It’s since fallen off that list.

Other students don’t condone what Feltes says she’s doing.

Student Government Association Senator Djimon Lewis transferred to ISU in 2019. He just started to go out and enjoy the nightlife before the pandemic hit. Lewis said he stays safe despite just catching his groove at ISU. 

“Knowing you can help contribute to saving someone’s life--that’s what keeps me at home. That supersedes any of my wants of wanting to be out and experience the nightlife. I still find ways to hang out with people, one on one or socially distant. There are ways around it and it is just adapting to it instead of fighting it,” said Lewis.

Students will soon go home for Thanksgiving and then winter break. That may pose a risk for family members. Students were strongly encouraged to take advantage of on-campus testing prior to returning home.

Lewis said he has a 90-year-old relative he constantly thinks about as he follows guidelines.

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