I’ve been waiting for a coherent, responsible university policy decision to address the ongoing pandemic (did you know it’s not over?), but generally all we get is minimal effort to muddle along with the status quo. In particular, we’re not demanding that students be vaccinated in order to return to school in the fall, which seems to me to be a really easy requirement to ask for.
In an e-mail to the University of Minnesota community sent on June 14, President Joan Gabel announced that the U will not require students, faculty and staff to be vaccinated against COVID-19 prior to the start of the fall semester. As members of the U community, we are disappointed by this decision.
The U is the flagship educational institution in the state. It boasts the largest medical school, with a faculty of world-class clinicians, educators and researchers; it also serves as a scientific and economic engine to the state. As such, the U should be expected to be a leader in the fight against COVID-19 by supporting science-based policies that create the safest and least-disruptive environment possible.
The U is also a community, comprising thousands of people from across the state, country and world, of all different ages and in all states of health. Its commitment to the community should be the same: to follow the science to create the safest environment possible, especially for its most vulnerable members.
This refusal to insist on the best mechanism we have for dealing with this disease is absurd. When we enroll kids in elementary school, there are requirements for vaccination; they maintain records for that sort of thing, and they’ll send kids home if they don’t meet the requirements. Yet we don’t bother at the college level? Instead, the administration tells us to make accommodations to cope with the effects of the pandemic. So all last year, I happily did what I could. It meant greatly increasing my workload, halving lab size so we could at least give them a taste of lab work, and at the same time, coping with the disruption of students having to go into quarantine or going home for funerals. This was miserable for all concerned. Shouldn’t we do everything we can to end this ugly experience?
Unvaccinated people made up all of Maryland’s reported coronavirus deaths last month, as well as the vast majority of new cases and hospitalizations, the state reported Tuesday — data that public health officials say demonstrates the effectiveness of vaccines.
The numbers come as experts try to persuade the vaccine-hesitant to get shots and protect themselves against a virus that has killed more than 22,000 people in the region and nearly 4 million worldwide.
We keep taking every improvement in the situation as an excuse to abandon every policy decision that led to that improvement. Can we please just stick with something until we’ve beat it?
If I had my druthers, here’s what I’d do.
- Require vaccination for public participation. Everyone should carry proof of vaccination and be ready to show it, or be thrown out.
- Masks are still required when indoors with other people, like in a classroom.
- We continue remote instruction, and labs are reduced in size to allow for social distancing.
- And this is important: we keep in mind that vaccination does not make you totally immune. It improves resistance, but there’s still a chance of infection, especially in the context of new variants that are allowed to proliferate because we’re so slack about maintaining common sense harm reduction.
It’s still time to be aware and cautious!