Pandemic perspectives: Back to the stadium

As year three of the pandemic approaches, despite widespread vaccination efforts and falling infection rates in many regions of the country, the effects of COVID-19 on daily life continue to evolve, impacting different people in different ways.

But the biggest difference from a year ago to today is the lack of hope for a return to pre-pandemic normality. Like the stages of grief, people across the world have raged against COVID-19 protocols, felt the pain of lost loved ones and the anger of lost freedoms and watched as each silver lining fell to news of disaster. In order to provide a picture of the pandemic today, The Miami Hurricane interviewed nearly 100 students, faculty and staff at the University of Miami about their life as it stands living in a world turned upside down.

Pandemic perspectives: Back to the stadium

Members from the Frost Band of the Hour preparing for the trip to Atlanta for UM football’s season opener against Alabama said they were forced to adapt to constantly-changing plans for a game that brought in over 70,000 largely-maskless attendees.

“COVID-19 has forced us to be flexible,” said professor Douglas McCullough, assistant director of athletic bands for the Frost School of Music.

“Our plans are changing every day because of protocols from the university and from the organizers in Atlanta.”

The Frost Band of the Hour performs before the Canes' game versus the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019.
The Frost Band of the Hour performs before the Canes' game versus the Central Michigan Chippewas at Hard Rock Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Recently, the band returned to wearing masks during practice due to a new policy from the university that masks must be worn outdoors while in groups of four or more people. McCullough said he worries that the change could be a sign of things to come.

“With COVID it always feels like there’s something in the shadows,” McCullough said. “I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop, where we all get sick and sent home.”

While COVID-19 has been challenging, McCullough said he has seen some positive changes brought on by the pandemic and how it has changed some students’ perspectives.

“This group in particular seems to enjoy working hard,” McCullough said. “That makes it more fun for me, and I know it makes it more fun for the students too.”

While the Frost Band of the Hour gets back into their routine in advance of the long fall football season, the Canes football players they support struggle with the constantly-evolving COVID-19 protocols on campus and the field.

“It was exciting to kind of get back to normal; the campus was more lively; but rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent,” said UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard, a junior majoring in broadcast journalism.

UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard: “Rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent.’
UM Football wide receiver Jarius Howard: “Rules on masks and things of that nature are inconsistent.’ Photo credit: University of Miami Athletics

Until the virus is better controlled, Howard said he would not mind seeing the symptom checkers return to campus but is comfortable with the COVID-19 policies enacted by the university athletic department.

“The athletic department has been taking precaution by requiring masks in meetings and closed areas,” he said.

Other athletes said they are hoping for a quicker return to normality. Xavier Restrepo, a UM football wide receiver studying sports administration, said practice this year is the same as always, although maybe a little more intense.

Freshman wide receiver Xavier Restrepo walks to the sideline during practice at the Greentree Practice Fields on Aug. 31, 2021.
Freshman wide receiver Xavier Restrepo walks to the sideline during fall practice at the Greentree Practice Fields on Aug. 31, 2021. Photo credit: Jared Lennon

Restrepo, who led the Hurricanes with 55 receiving yards and a touchdown in Saturday’s 44-13 loss to Alabama, said he has had a great first week back on campus. Despite a good start to the year, however, Restrepo said the pandemic has changed him and his teammates, who are constantly in close proximity to each other.

“It has affected a lot of us tremendously especially with all the contact tracing protocols and having to sit out of games and practice at times,” Restrepo said. “I am hoping that we have a healthy COVID-free year and that everything will be smooth.”

Rebeccah Blau, Anna Coon, Amanda Crane, Jessica Costantino, Harrison Hayes, Molly MacKenzie, Maria Toledo, Anna Steingruber, Gabriella Torna, Mykel Tubbs, Juliette Valle, Kelsey Walker, Sedona Rose Webb, Ines Mendez, Tatiana Robinson, Alex Terr and Daniel Toll contributed to the reporting in this series.