It is not the time to slack off

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.

Well, some of our faculty are just as disappointed as I am.

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?

You know numbers are currently going up, and new viral variants are killing more people, right?

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!


  1. Akira MacKenzie says

    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?

    But… but… The economy and “going back to brunch…”

  2. says

    In the UK we are just about to abandon protection measures against COVID as if it just doesn’t exist anymore. I wonder how that will work out?

  3. jellorat says

    That’s so weird. Years ago, when I was attending WWU in Bellingham, WA, I had to provide proof of measles vaccination. I remember it clearly because the Whatcom County health district had lost all record of me due to my name change, and I had to go pay to get a titer drawn, or get revaccinated.

    You would think the Covid vaccination would be of the same, if not more pressing importance to any university.

  4. kestrel says

    Our area had a very high rate of vaccination and so we had all stopped wearing masks because so many of us were vaccinated, but alas, our next door neighbor is called Texas. The Texans love to come here in droves in the summer and many have second homes here. Since the Partner works in health care we simply cannot afford to take the risk of getting sick. We need our healthcare workers to be able to go to work. We decided we need to wear masks. We were in town yesterday and actually saw a lot of people wearing masks again. Apparently, a lot of our fellow citizens here are also concerned and once again are taking precautions.

    So weird that there are people out there reluctant to try and stop a pandemic.

  5. kome says

    Every college I’ve ever attended, including the one I’m currently at, has required me to show proof of childhood vaccinations to be able to enroll. So, colleges already require students to be vaccinated against diseases that are relatively low-level dangers in today’s society (thanks to herd immunity). What the ever-loving f**k are university admins thinking by refusing to require a vaccination against a current global pandemic that, just in the past year and a half, has resulted in over 4 million deaths? This is not a brand new policy, it has decades and decades of precedent.

    This is like when a doctor prescribes you an antibiotic. You don’t stop taking the prescription when you feel better, you keep taking them until you run through the full course of pills. If you stop taking the medicine the moment you start to feel better, the disease isn’t out of your system and there is a real chance that the disease will come back worse. Why are university admins so bloody stupid? Oh right, money…

  6. Akira MacKenzie says

    This pandemic couldn’t have hit us at a worse time in our history. Between the upper class ghouls who don’t care how many of their wage slaves end up in the ICU or the morgue so long as profits go up, and the Red State trash who think science is the git of the devil and vaccines are going to render them sterile, magnetic, and barred from the Kingdom or Heaven, it’s a wonder we’re not all dead yet.

  7. raven says

    I just checked to see how many US colleges and universities are requiring Covid-19 virus vaccinations for the Fall, 2021. It is a lot, up to…572. Chronicle: “Institutions that have said their requirement hinges upon full approval of one or more vaccines by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration are included in this list.

    The Chronicle has so far identified 572 such campuses.”

    It is a good idea.
    One problem is that no Covid-19 vaccines have full FDA approval so far. They are all being distributed on an EUA, Emergency Use Authorization. That provides a reason for not requiring vaccinations for in site attendance and another excuse for the antivaxxers to refuse the vaccines.

    The FDA IMO, really needs to move faster on their full approval procedures.

  8. wzrd1 says

    And this is important: we keep in mind that vaccination does not make you totally immune.

    I’ve been beating that drum to death. Everyone, as soon as it was announced that vaccinated could go mask free, I was and still am the only masked individual in the county.
    The vaccine, really, any vaccine does not prevent being an asymptomatic carrier or have a subclinical infection that the vaccine limited to such a mild level.
    The way we’re going, novel variants will arise that the vaccines won’t protect against.
    Worse, the powers that be are warning of a bad winter wave, from my chair, that’s already beginning.

  9. Allison says

    I notice they don’t mention the serious long-term effects of COVID-19. There’s a belief going around that younger people, such as college students, are less likely to die of COVID-19, so they can ignore the danger. However, it is precisely these who are more likely to get these effects than us older folks (possibly because older people who would get them die of it instead.) As far as anyone knows at this point, “long term” could mean life-long.

    Just to review, some of the long-term effects are:

    Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
    Joint pain
    Chest pain
    Memory, concentration or sleep problems
    Muscle pain or headache
    Fast or pounding heartbeat
    Loss of smell or taste
    Depression or anxiety
    Dizziness when you stand
    Worsened symptoms after physical or mental activities

  10. says

    I expected this. It’s going to be spot fires all summer. Mostly in counties and districts that truly believe in #45. All my friends and family are vaccinated and I’ve reached the “just let them die” point. Any adult who isn’t vaccinated now isn’t going to get vaccinated. That’s on them. The only ones I feel sorry for are the children and immunocompromised who can’t get the vaccine. It’s not their fault they’re surrounded by suicidal lemmings. The whole situation sucks. People are going to continue to die because of stupidity. Blatant bullshit stupidity.

  11. says

    In order to enforce a mask or vaccine mandate, you need politicians who are willing to put the good of the people above profits or pandering.

    The Republicans are explicitly on the side of profits and pandering.

    The Democrats have spent the last 30-odd years specifically training themselves to support Republicans officially in the name of bipartisanship, but really in the name of lobbyist cash, to the point where they don’t even have the political will to prevent voter suppression that is quite likely going to end their own party.

    You wanted good policy? You had to gave good government in place — which would have meant no compromising on Manchin because “he’s the only Democrat who could ever win in that state” in ways that make the party lose 3 or 4 other states, no “bipartisanship is a good in and of itself so we have to let the Republicans dictate policy even though they are a minority party” bullshit Obamas or Bidens, and no “corporations will save us all through the magic of trickle-down” Clintons. It’s way too late to be worrying about this now. The rich own our government and our media; major stories like the massive admissions of corruption of Congress by an Exxon lobbyist aren’t even making headlines. (And you sure as hell aren’t going to hear anything from Biden about that one, either — not when a majority of the Congress members who the lobbyist names as bribe-takers are Democrats.)

  12. Matt G says

    At what point are we justified in calling COVID-19 the Republican Flu, or the Evangelical Flu or the Bible Belt Flu?

  13. asclepias says

    I was not at all surprised to see the headline in Wednesday’s paper that COVID hospitalizations and deaths are up in Laramie County. Wyoming went 70% for Trump. I still wear a mask anytime I am inside or around a lot of people, but very few other people do. I am expecting to see a huge surge in August because Frontier Days is going ahead this year. For those of you who don’t know, Frontier Days is a festival that grew up around the rodeo. There’s a parade every other day, a pancake breakfast on off days, a carnival, the rodeo (of course), and it brings thousands of people from out-of-state into Wyoming (notably, a lot of places that currently have low vaccination rates). They canceled it last year. I’m annoyed because my sister is immunocompromised, and even though she’s vaccinated, she is exactly the sort of person who would end up with a breakthrough infection. She’s already had multi-organ failure, and was in the hospital for 5 months. I stopped job hunting entirely for a full year because I couldn’t risk exposing her. I am sick of putting my life on hold for a bunch of selfish prigs. At this point, I figure that the more people who die, the better off the rest of us will be. It’s not a charitable thought, of course, but there it is.

  14. raven says

    As we all see, the Covid-19 pandemic isn’t over. The fundie xians/GOP are keeping it alive and ongoing. It has split into two pandemics though, based on vaccination percentages.
    In Blue areas, the pandemic is winding down and cases and deaths are falling.
    In Red areas, the pandemic is still going on and cases and deaths are actually rising.
    This pattern is going to continue, probably until the fall when people spend more time indoors and the schools start up again.

    Yahoo news has an article on the latest US martyrs. They don’t use the word, martyr, but that is what they are. They are the antivaxxers, mostly fundie xians/GOP white Americans. And they are dying for their own lies.

    Yahoo news July 08, 2021
    ‘Those deaths were preventable’: Unvaccinated parts of country are driving the pandemic now Alexander Nazaryan

    WASHINGTON — Virtually all deaths from COVID-19 in the United States are now among people who have not received their coronavirus vaccine. And those deaths are highly concentrated in counties — many of them in the Midwest and Southeast — where vaccination rates are precariously low.

    On the other hand, transmission has effectively ceased in Northeastern and Western states where governors have made vaccination a top priority, and where resistance was low among residents from the start.

    ” Walensky said that in recent months, 99.5 percent of all deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. were among unvaccinated individuals.”

  15. robro says

    ongoing pandemic (did you know it’s not over?)

    As one wag put it, the easing of masking and social distancing restrictions doesn’t mean the pandemic is over, just that they have enough beds for you in the ICU. We’re a nation of idiots. I try not to despair.

  16. says

    in most hospitals 100% of COVID deaths are unvaccinated people. There’s another here and there who was vaccinated, but there are 1000s of people dying because they refused the vaccine.

  17. hillaryrettig1 says

    A failure of leadership at every level in this country.

    Also what happens when you corporatize universities, so that they’re run by bean counting administrators rather than true educators with a caring for the people and mission. The fact that the top level admin jobs are so well paid only makes the problem worse by attracting the worst people.

    And I personally know one person who is pro-vax but couldn’t get vaxxed due to pre-existing conditions. And another who is immunosuppressed, so that even though he is fully vaxxed he is not fully protected.

  18. hillaryrettig1 says

    oops. didn’t finish the above.

    And I personally know one person who is pro-vax but couldn’t get vaxxed due to pre-existing conditions. And another who is immunosuppressed, so that even though he is fully vaxxed he is not fully protected. so a lot of people besides those who are intentionally unvaxxed are at risk.

  19. chris61 says

    Hospitalizations and even deaths are not 100% unvaccinated individuals. Probably more like 95-98% for deaths and less than that for hospitalizations . Many areas in the USA are not recording break-through cases so the numbers are underestimates. In any case I plan to continue wearing my mask and social distancing for the foreseeable future.

  20. blf says

    @12 / @13, Whilst I realise the comments are somewhat in jest, please do not “rename” Covid-19 as … Flu. One of the problems is there was, and I presume still is, a large cohort of people who “think” Covid-19 is [just like] flu (showing they know nothing about either disease). This arguably includes most of teh “U”K’s “government” who is “planning” to just live with it and dropping all restrictions in about 10 days time — at a time when cases are surging again, etc., etc., turning teh “U”K into a variant factory.

    One possibility is perhaps “something Plague” ? “Moron’s Plague”, maybe?

  21. says

    @18 hillaryrettig1
    A failure of leadership at every level in this country.
    How can that be? Infallible mastermind DJT was in charge. Seriously though we are still paying for his fuck ups. 1 out of 3 Americans STILL think COVID is a hoax. It’s not failure at this point. It’s negligence. Deliberate negligence bordering on sabotage. Putin is laughing his ass off at us right now. He played Trump like a fiddle and now we pay the price. NEVER FORGET 2020. Come 2024 hold that anger in your heart and use that fire to burn the GOP to the ground. Volunteer and march and get ready to fight. It’s going to get ugly.

  22. says

    @21 blf
    Would you prefer “Bible Belt-itus”? Maybe Republican Respiration Syndrome, or RRS? GOP Gonner Party Disease? GGPD (bothers me because I hate nested acronyms). Ignorant anti-vax virus, IAVV. Let me know if any of these sound better I can keep working on it.

  23. blf says

    @23, Certainly better than anything I’ve been able to come up with !

    Off-topic(-ish): “GGPD (bothers me because I hate nested acronyms)” — yeah, the one I’m not too keen on is GNU because it’s recursive (“GNU’s Not Unix!”) and the rationale for it is easily misunderstood (what they meant is GNU projects didn’t contain any of the copyrighted Unix source).

  24. garnetstar says

    No one’s holding guns to the students’ heads (are they? These days you have to ask.) If a university requires vaccination to attend, and you don’t want to get vaxxed, you are free (and welcome) to take your business elsewhere. That’s why the RWNJ’s blathering about “civil rights” is so stupid. It’s not a constitutionally-protected right to attend any particular university.

    That’s the attitude that my state’s state university system has taken. Everyone who sets foot on any of their campuses must be vaxxed.

    I’m still masking, though. While Delta is burning through, that and distancing. After Delta has done its burn, it’s contagious enought that we may get to a place where almost everyone is either vaxxed, immune because they got Delta, or dead. I’ll take a look then to see what the situation is. Until then, it’s masks, distancing, and as many booster shots as I can get.

  25. trog69 says

    So, it took this very dangerous variant of the virus to get us hermits off our dead asses and receive our first shots yesterday. Now my arm hurts and my stomach says breakfast is not on the menu. Still beats choking to death in a hospital.

  26. KG says

    In the UK we are just about to abandon protection measures against COVID as if it just doesn’t exist anymore. I wonder how that will work out? – mclarenm23@2

    And with the current level of (half-heartedly enforced) restrictions, cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all increasing rapidly. We have the final of the “Euro 2020” [sic] soccer tournament tomorrow, but we already know the tournament winner: SARS-CoV-2. In Scotland, a huge pulse of infection followed the England-Scotland match, for which thousands of Scottish fans went south.

    But of course, it’s all the fault of the Democrats, as The Vicar@11 will tell you.