‘Ultimate’ college town left deserted amid COVID-19 pandemic



Buildings line the empty streets in downtown Boston, Saturday, April 4, 2020,. The new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms for most people, but for some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness or death. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

By Reagan Eyler

Like all college towns nationwide, social distancing in Boston has had a major impact on life for a city with nearly 15 percent of its population consisting of college students.

More than 694,000 people live in Boston this year, according to the World Population Review. It is known to be a large, highly populated college town with 35 colleges and more than 100,000 students.

In the state of Massachusetts as a whole, there have been over 15,000 cases of COVID-19 and 356 deaths, according to the CDC. Over 4,000 people have recovered.

Having such a large population of college students can cause a different kind of impact from COVID-19.

Kelsey Boch, a first-year contemporary theater major at Boston Conservatory has lived in the Boston area both in and out of college.

“Boston is like the ultimate college town,” Boch said. “I think just having all of the students get up and leave in the middle of the semester is wild especially for a city like Boston where the student population is huge.”

Luke Manory is a senior at Boston University who, like all seniors nationwide, will not get to have the traditional college experience during his last semester.

“It’s been pretty miserable,” Manory said. “My senior spring in its entirety has been ruined.”

Manory said one of the most noticeable changes for him is the city itself. 

“The atmosphere is somber and there are way fewer people on public transport and walking throughout the city itself,” he said. “Living next to the Fenway area, it’s shocking to see the number of restaurants that aren’t open and the people I’d expect to see walking around when opening day is ‘theoretically’ right around the corner.”

Two women practice social distancing while talking on Commonwealth Avenue Mall in Boston during the coronavirus outbreak Saturday, April 4, 2020. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)

Merrick Gregory, a Boston native who is home from her school, thinks the city is handling the situation well because of the city’s sense of community even during uncertain times.

“Boston has such a general sense of community,” Gregory said. “I think that we are doing well and taking care of each other because we do genuinely care about each other and our city.”

“The other day I went to get ice cream with my sister and a woman offered to pay for our ice cream which was such a little thing but so nice and representative of the type of people that live here.”

Merrick Gregory, Boston native

She expanded on this by talking about small businesses as there are many in her area. 

Gregory added that Boston’s community has been represented through small businesses: they are adapting to the pandemic as everyone is rallying around and supporting them.

When asked about how the city is doing with the pandemic, most people say it is doing well for the circumstances.

Boch said her area has done a good job of social distancing. 

“There have been lots of signs on the roads to go home and police everywhere. A lot of people are out walking but they are keeping six feet apart,” Boch said.

Although Manory does not have the opportunity to truly experience his senior spring, he understands why social distancing is necessary.

“For all the complaining I’ve done, it is important to note that I believe this is what is best for the United States as a whole,” Manory said, “It is imperative that we all do our part to flatten the curve.”