Frankly, universities should not have reopened. In the past weeks, several large universities have seen a recent spike in cases of the coronavirus—over 500 total at the University of Alabama, 200 new cases at Auburn University (also in Alabama) and University of Southern California has over 100 students in quarantine after being exposed, according to Inside Higher Ed and Reuters. Opening a university and encouraging students to come back to campus from states all across the country is simply a bad idea. While Brandeis has had only four individuals test positive in the past month, the student body, faculty and staff have no guarantees that our low positivity rate will continue. Brandeis, because of its smaller size and frequent testing program, is likely at a lower risk than larger state universities. But, nonetheless, a risk still remains.
It seems counterintuitive for so many universities across the country to welcome students back to campus, increasing the risk for not only faculty and staff at the schools but also the community where the college is located, while K-12 schools across the country are choosing to go fully online for the fall semester/trimester, or limit in-person classes to one or two days per week. While the college setting is different in terms of the learning experience, there is significant potential for new and returning students to be vectors of disease and bring the coronavirus to college campuses or towns. Robust testing is always important, and necessary, but scientists are still trying to understand the asymptomatic transmission of the coronavirus, and it realistically would have been safer to continue purely remote learning or allow very few individuals to return to campus, rather than everyone.
The decision to return, however, has been made. With just over half of the student body living back on campus and others living in the surrounding city of Waltham, we have a social responsibility to abide by the regulations set by not only Brandeis but by Massachusetts and the United States government. We’re all in this together.
Other universities have already demonstrated what can happen if students, faculty and staff recklessly congregate without social distancing or proper face coverings. Some of the regulations may seem tedious or stringent at times, but they are in place to protect our community and prevent an outbreak from occurring on our campus.
Ignoring these regulations would be inconsiderate to our entire community. While most faculty are teaching remotely, those that do come to campus, along with staff members who work on campus, still go home each night to their families. If a single person decides not to comply with the safety measures, it could affect a number of families. This relationship is true in reverse—faculty and staff can also expose students. While students may feel as if they are in a “bubble” on campus, that is not accurate. People come and go on this campus everyday. Each and every person who steps foot onto the Brandeis campus brings the risk of spreading this virus. We must remain cautious and vigilant if we are to protect ourselves and others.
We have seen on the news how failure to follow social distancing guidelines and mask mandates has created new hotspots for the coronavirus in pockets of the United States, while other states working diligently to keep individuals at home have seen significant decreases in cases. Despite the temptation to surround ourselves with friends, we as a student body need to be cautious. If we are careless in our social interactions, the privilege of being back on campus will surely come to an end sooner rather than later.
While the federal government is trying to deny the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, it is important that we, as a campus and Brandeis community, continue to diligently practice social distancing, wear masks and wash hands frequently. These practices are so simple, yet so effective in preventing the spread of the coronavirus.
In the case that someone you have been in close contact with has been confirmed as a positive case, or suspected positive case, do your due diligence and follow protocols set by contact tracers and be open and communicative about who you have been in contact with. It is equally, if not more important, to be honest about your interactions with contact tracers so they can help prevent the further spread of the disease from that one person.
We, as the editorial board of The Brandeis Hoot, urge our classmates to take on this social responsibility to practice safe interactions to give us the opportunity to stay on campus for the entire semester. If you are given the choice to go to a party but feel unsure because you don’t know if they will be practicing the safe guidelines, do not go. It is always better to be safe than sorry.