By Spencer de Tenley, Staff Writer
What are my thoughts on Xavier’s COVID-19 response? Oh, maybe that there wasn’t one.
OK, but seriously, how can someone talk about Xavier’s COVID-19 response without mentioning how little the COVID-19 procedures changed from the fall to spring semesters? As a first-year — I came into the Xavier family fully masked in places like classrooms and the Hoff Dining Hall when COVID-19 was thought to be on its way out.
Now, as we start second semester, COVID-19 numbers are higher than ever, yet protocols are essentially the same. Yes, there is a vaccine mandate, and yes, a negative test was required before returning, but on-campus things like masks and a vaccination requirement for basketball games aren’t even being enforced.
Last semester, I think we all remember the massive spike that we had. Xavier was hit hard by COVID-19 at the beginning of the school year and honestly wasn’t prepared. I was a part of that spike and needed to be quarantined for the recommended 10 days in the University Apartments. Over the course of the 10 days, I had four different roommates, which to me seems just as unsafe as housing positive students with negative ones.
I understand that the university was overbooked when it came to rooms, but I feel like they should’ve expected it from the beginning.
Students had just spent the last year online and were eager for that college experience, which oftentimes does not include masks or social distancing. College kids will party regardless of the times, and Xavier should’ve anticipated a spike because of it.
As we enter the second semester of the school year, I suspect that a similar spike, and I believe Xavier is still unprepared for a surge in COVID-19 cases.
Wear masks in Cintas
By Jackson Hare, Staff Writer
Xavier prides itself in the fact that we are still in person, but we are still falling ill to the same failures that put other campuses online.
At all of the Xavier men’s basketball games I have been to in Cintas Center this year, I have noticed a consistent issue. Before the game and multiple times throughout, the announcer will remind spectators to wear a mask at all times with the exception of eating or drinking. Then of course, cameras will scan the crowds offering an ironic spectacle of unmasked students and other audience members cheering on the jumbotron.
After coming back from break, I thought it would surely be different since the new, more contagious Omicron variant of COVID-19 was rapidly spreading across the country and spiking. However, that was not the case.
The majority of the stadium was unmasked because Xavier has a critical lack of enforcement and attentiveness towards their COVID-19 policies. This gives events like Xavier men’s basketball games the potential to be superspreader events.
On paper, Xavier is doing what the Centers for Disease Control recommend to prevent transmission of the virus, such as requiring masks and proof of vaccination. In practice, these policies are laughable and ineffective. As spectators enter the stadium, their masks are on, but even before they sit down, their masks are off and will remain that way for the entirety of the game.
Paying particular attention to the student section, it makes little sense to require masks in the classroom when students are allowed to tightly pack into a section of Cintas to cheer and yell without masks on, allowing spit to project among the crowd.
It’s not like Xavier doesn’t know this is happening. This problem is shown on a jumbotron. It is just that there has been no attempt to enforce the mask policy besides a quick, ignorable announcement during the game.
Additionally, according to Cincinnati COVID-19 data, Xavier students returned to campus just days after Cincinnati experienced a dramatic increase in COVID-19 cases, which has since continued to rise. This is important because students are not the only spectators at men’s basketball games. People from the community come to see these games as well. This could not only introduce COVID-19 cases into Xavier, but also let Xavier contribute to the rapid spread of the virus in the community.
In a large stadium full of people, it can be challenging to enforce such a mask policy. However, if it cannot be reasonably enforced, Xavier should significantly limit the situations in which it is too much of a challenge, meaning potentially limiting the amount of spectators. Otherwise, they are carelessly allowing COVID-19 to spread in the community and around campus.
Day One masks
By Ben Thomson, Staff Writer
I think it’s hella irresponsible that Xavier told quarantined students to go ahead and pick up their books. I work at the bookstore, and I felt very unsafe when students with COVID-19 flat out ignored the sign on the door that told them not to come in if they had it.
We’re better together
By Joseph Cotton, Education & Enrichment Coordinator
There is no amount of data and no amount of information that will tell us what decision should be made. The best we can do is to look at the options we have and move forward with our goals in mind.
In our discussions around COVID-19 restrictions, we have forgotten that there are consequences associated with every option we could possibly choose. Whether we choose to completely lock everything down again or whether we do away with all restrictions, we are accepting a certain amount of harm will be done.
You will get COVID-19. It’s not a matter of if; it’s a matter of when. Even if you wear five face masks and lock yourself in your house for as long as you possibly can, you’re going to get COVID-19.
According to Associate Professor of Epidemiology at the University of California San Francisco Vinay Prasad, there are two types of safety measures that can be implemented in combating COVID-19. The first is risk reduction. Getting vaccinated falls into this category, along with staying generally healthy and supporting your immune system. The second safety measure is delaying the time you meet the virus. Face masks fall into this category.
Given these facts, our school made the right decision in returning on schedule with in-person instruction. We are a young, healthy population with a 92.92% vaccination rate, and the risk of an outbreak on campus that causes severe harm to students is extremely low. The truth is that, at this stage in the pandemic, it is much more dangerous to keep certain restrictions in place than it is to return to some level of normality. Again, we’re all going to get COVID-19, and I would rather not have my life upturned to delay it by a few weeks or so.
Our cross-town rivals in the University of Cincinnati and our friends across the river in Northern Kentucky University made a terrible mistake in keeping their students away from what many consider to be their home.
Not everyone has a healthy home life. I shudder to think about the people who are forced to be in an abusive situation or LGBT+ folks who need to hide who they really are to those around them, even if it is just for an extra two weeks or so.
Even in more comfortable situations though, virtual classes lead to more anxiety and depression, social isolation, mental fatigue and lower overall performance. All of these issues impact young people more than they do anyone else, and the consequences can be catastrophic.
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control, suicide attempts increased by 50.6% among girls between the ages of 12-17. The suicide rate for people aged 25-34 years also increased by 5%. In April 2021, deaths from opioid overdoses surpassed 100,000 cases, representing a 28.5% increase from the same time in 2020. Drug use and binge drinking have also increased for college students during the pandemic. Additionally, all of these social health metrics were worse for people of color.
These adverse outcomes may not be directly related to the restrictions themselves, but I know and you know that virtual classes are not doing favors for anyone. Even if students at Xavier do not become one of these statistics, the mental health impacts of severe disruptions to daily life are very real and should not be taken lightly.
We need to understand we are not living in the same world that we were just a year ago. We know that vaccines work, and we have treatments like monoclonal antibodies, remdesivir and molnupiravir for the most severe cases. The pandemic needs to end at some point, and we need to move forward.
We are better in person. Stay healthy, Xavier.