COVID’s not over; quit pretending it is

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by Mo Marks, Staff Writer

The summer before my freshman year of college, my mom bought me a book called “The Naked Roommate” by Harlan Cohen. The book was all about how to deal with awkward social situations at college that you may not have encountered as a high schooler and which you will have no option but to be assertive about. 

Considering that I am a generally anxious person, this was a perfectly logical book for her to buy me, and I didn’t take offense to the implication that I lack social functioning skills.

I’ve never had to request my roommate put on clothes, thankfully, but I have had to request my hallmates put on clothes – specifically, masks. Last year, we did a really good job wearing masks as a campus. Honestly, I don’t find them that annoying, but I know that a lot of people do. So I appreciate all of the hard work we put in last year. 

Many people on campus have given up on wearing masks. I’ve seen so many noses, mouths and philtrums this year I feel like a freaking otolaryngologist. On my way to class this morning, I walked by a girl with a nasty cough who I know for a fact was recently traveling for sports and wasn’t wearing a mask. 

Yes, the college has reduced the strictness of our mask mandate, but let’s use some common sense and keep using them in tiny offices and when we have a cough, runny nose or other ailments. The most frustrating is when people take off their masks in cramped, indoor quarters and then throw in a blasé: “Oh, I’m vaccinated,” as though scientists haven’t been yelling since the beginning of the vaccine rollout that fully vaccinated individuals can still transmit the coronavirus.

I even know I’m not the only one getting frustrated. A sign was erected outside of the east entrance to the fitness center which read, “Masks are REQUIRED while inside Simpson College buildings and gyms.” The sign wouldn’t be there if they weren’t having a problem with people not wearing their masks, and I know from using the gym last year that even when mask mandates were more overarching, people were still pulling their masks below their noses and even taking them fully off during the height of the pandemic. 

It feels like this year, though, we’ve forgotten that we’re living through a pandemic and that really worries me. We’re living in a poorly vaccinated area. As of Sept. 21, only 61% of eligible Warren County residents – or 51.5% of the total population are currently vaccinated, according to the CDC. 

The delta variant of the coronavirus is far more infectious because it has more spike proteins, and yet we continue to act like we’re living in the same world that we were when the only version of COVID-19 was the alpha variant. 

So, here’s what I’m asking of you. First: wear your mask. I know you don’t like them but do it anyway. We’re living through a pandemic. You can put a piece of fabric over your nose and mouth. 

Second: get vaccinated. With about 72% of campus vaccinated, we’re looking at just 98 more students who need to get the jab before we can go to the green phase. I know a lot of people who have chosen not to get vaccinated because they are concerned about the safety of it, but this vaccine has been in development since the SARS outbreak in 2003, the year which I–and many other students on this campus–were born. Any negative effects of the vaccine are far preferable to ending up on a respirator, with long-term COVID symptoms, or–God forbid–dead. 

Somebody wrote on the free speech wall last week that they weren’t getting the vaccine because it was their body, their choice. Frankly, that is flawed logic. “My body, my choice” only applies to situations that exclusively impact the person in question. So, for example, if I wanted to get my leg cut off for the aesthetic, that’d be my body, my choice. However, your choice not to get the vaccine puts your professors, classmates and family members at risk. Therefore, it is the bodies of the community, and your choice must take those individuals, and their opinions, into consideration. We are asking you to get vaccinated because we are scared. 

I’m scared for the girl I saw coughing without a mask. I’m scared for my professor who is over 65 years old. I’m scared for my roommate’s mom who has COPD but wants to see her daughter more often than just at the end of the semester. 

So, here’s me having the naked roommate discussion my mom and Harlan Cohen have been trying to prepare me for. I feel unsafe on campus. Please put on your mask and get vaccinated.