Before the semester started, students at the University of Connecticut were inundated with emails regarding aspects of the Fall 2021 semester such as safe move-in procedures, vaccination rates, the color-coded system and housing. The level of concern in the emails was not panic-inducing, rather it felt reassuring, since COVID-19 is still a prevalent issue worldwide.
However, after getting to campus, it has felt like COVID-19 is not being taken as seriously as it should. Although the color-coded system indicates that the university is in “orange,” meaning that masks are required indoors and recommended outdoors, the way UConn has followed through on COVID-19 precautions, it feels that the level of concern indicated in writing is not matched by their actions.
A prime example of this are UConn dining halls. Unlike last year, when dining halls had reduced capacity, this semester, dining halls are usually extremely crowded at peak times, such as around noon for lunch and around 6 p.m. for dinner. Students must wear their masks while getting food, but once they sit down at a table to eat, they can take their masks off. With limited air flow indoors, this is not the safest option. Instead, encouraging take out or limiting seats in dining halls would be much safer.
Currently, 97% of Storrs residential students are fully or partially vaccinated. However, with the prevalence of new COVID-19 variants, such as the delta variant, which accounts for the majority of COVID-19 cases in the U.S., extra precautions should be taken. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, fully vaccinated people with breakthrough infections can spread the virus to others.Vaccines are very effective against this variant, but no vaccine is 100% effective. Therefore, necessary precautions must be taken.
UConn is also not mandating testing for students. Weekly pooled surveillance testing would be helpful in preventing breakthrough infections from spreading. Although currently most breakthrough infections are mild and asymptomatic, the CDC is still assessing data on whether or not fully vaccinated people with an asymptomatic breakthrough infection can spread the disease. At this point, it would be better to exercise caution since much information about COVID-19 and the delta variant is largely unknown.
In addition, for immunocompromised populations, the efficacy of the vaccine is not as high. Due to the additional risks for the immunocompromised population, everyone should be taking extra precautions.
The COVID-19 pandemic is still wreaking havoc on communities worldwide. With more variants being discovered, and limited research on each, it is better to be safe and take precautions when possible. UConn must recognize this, ensure that students are encouraged to get tested, and encourage students to wear masks and practice social distancing whenever possible.