Auburn University had low COVID cases at the end of the fall semester, an impressive feat considering the population of the University and the open bars every weekend. Sadly, it seems that the University is using these low numbers to justify not having reentry testing for the spring semester, despite peer schools like the University of Alabama and the University of Florida requiring reentry testing for at least those who live on campus.
The only thing that has changed from fall 2020 to spring 2021 is the production of a vaccine, and the vaccine won’t be administered to students for a while.
Although the vaccine is already being administered to Auburn faculty and staff, many students and community members will have to receive it on a first-come, first-serve basis. Unfortunately, students are the ones who will keep the virus circulating in the Auburn community to residents who have no choice but to endure its impacts.
Although the world may be tired of COVID, it is still facing a pandemic that is ravaging communities and hospitals. Hospitalizations are over 129,000 in the U.S., according to Healthline. As of Jan. 12, East Alabama Medical Clinic reported up to 88 COVID hospitalizations, with 16 ventilators in use. UAB Hospital is even putting some of its patients in hotels to preserve space.
Since students were able to take their exams online, many opted to pack up and go home in November, saying goodbye to Auburn until 2021. In a normal year, breaks would have been filled with working, visiting friends, traveling for the holidays, or partying for New Years. Many students did this over break anyway.
Auburn can’t control what students do on their own time, but they have a degree of control over the spread of the virus now, when students are returning, as they did in August.
According to Healthline, the state of Alabama has the third highest rate of positive test results nationwide at 47% and 408,000 cases in the past week.
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The U.S. had 21 million COVID cases, and U.S. COVID-19 related deaths have reached over 360,000. Students came back in the midst of all of this.
Auburn has a tendency to let things happen, and then provide a reaction — often late. This was a chance for Auburn to be more preventative than reactive.
The most notable recent example is the formation of the race and equity task force formed by Jay Gogue when those issues have been present on campus long before June 2020.
To be fair, Auburn made an attempt to be preventative, by giving professors the option to have the first two weeks of class online.
The issue with this attempt is that even if most professors decided to have classes online, once again, Auburn cannot control what their students do outside of class.
After the two weeks are up, many students will return to campus, potentially spreading COVID unbeknownst to anyone.
Even though many people will be vaccinated and life can return to some kind of normalcy, it is extremely disappointing to know that Auburn is okay with its students catching a virus.
At the very least, the administration could have given an explanation, instead of hoping it would go ignored. As mentioned before, Auburn had low COVID cases last semester, why not kick this semester off in the same way and establish the same type of expectation.
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