The Tufts COVID-19 Dashboard has become a site frequently visited by students. For many, guessing how many COVID-19 cases there are on campus in a given week is almost like a game. Two weeks ago, the dashboard displayed skyrocketing numbers that had students wondering whether we would be sent back home.
As the number of weekly cases climbed over 300, it seemed as if every classroom had several students missing or joining via Zoom. Friends would disappear for a couple of days, and public areas like Dewick were less crowded. Since the last national peak in January, the number of COVID-19 cases has been on a downward trajectory. So why has the Tufts community taken such a hit as of late?
After the frustrations and disappointments of the last two years, the vaccine seemed like a godsend. It meant less anxiety over getting sick and getting others sick, and more getting out of the dorm room, going to in-person classes, attending social gatherings, participating in sports and just seeing peoples’ faces. As Tufts eased restrictions, we began to move close to a point of normalcy. Unfortunately, a hasty return to normalcy comes with a price: a rise in infections.
The Tufts administration has done its best to adapt to every twist and turn of the pandemic. In the beginning of the semester, it required booster shots for students, made dining halls take out only and tested students three to four times a week. As COVID-19 cases declined and stabilized, the administration adapted once again by opening the dining halls, requiring students to get tested twice a week and reducing isolation duration to five days.
Most recently, university officials have reminded students to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines and have banned visitors from residential halls. It seems that as the severity of the illness dropped, Tufts remained vigilant but lax on restrictions, mirroring the rest of the country.
As The Mods fill up, and students are sent to hotels to isolate, many question whether Tufts is doing enough to respond to the rise in cases. Should there be an increase in testing? Should Tufts ban all gatherings, make food takeout-only and resume virtual classes?
It’s a difficult call and extremely frustrating to experience the unpredictable nature that this pandemic has brought. The ease in COVID-19 restrictions on campus has coincided with an increase in cases, but what does this really mean for the Tufts community?
Most faculty and students on campus are vaccinated and eager to go about their lives, as the pandemic has robbed the Tufts community of its freedoms over the past two years. The risk that COVID-19 poses in causing major health problems is decreasing with the booster, new medical innovations and vigilance. For young adults, going out and having fun is the nature of being in college, and a fear of the unknown should not stop us from making the best of these four short years.
However, it is still imperative that people continue to live their lives as safely as possible. With herd immunity, the disease is less likely to spread from person to person and the booster shots have been proven to greatly reduce the chance that individuals will become seriously ill if they contract COVID-19. We’ve reached a point in this pandemic where medicine and science have allowed us to find some comfort in our effort to return to normalcy. However, we should try our best to do so in a smart and safe way.
That being said, fully returning to normal is not plausible for all of us. It’s important for students to remain mindful of those who aren’t able to receive the vaccine and those who remain at risk for COVID-19 due to health-related vulnerabilities.
As much as students owe it to themselves to make the best of college, we also have a duty as members of the Medford and Somerville communities to be responsible for children, elders and immunocompromised individuals, and not to recklessly spread COVID-19. The battle with this virus is not over and many people around the nation can still suffer from drastic symptoms. It would be inconsiderate and selfish to disregard them.
On the other hand, many people are still blinded by misinformation and ignorance, and many refuse to get the vaccine. As much as it may be frustrating and easy to overlook these individuals, our strength as a nation relies on compassion and empathy. So the next time you are arguing with your uncle who refuses to get the vaccine, try treating them with kindness and persistence. Our generation must do our best to spark change with empathy and education — a great place to start is with this pandemic. Oh, and wear your mask!