Hey UConn, it’s time to lift some COVID restrictions!

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Putnam Dining Hall is the dining hall for Garrigus Suites, Hilltop Dorms, and Next Generation Hall. The dining unit was redone over the summer and now features two floors of available food options. Photo by Olivia Stenger/Daily Campus.

There is no word on if Biden stopped by the UConn Dairy Bar for his beloved chocolate chocolate chip ice cream. But if the president wanted some ice cream from one of our campus’ eight dining halls, he’d have been out of luck — student residents are currently prohibited from using their Flex Passes to swipe any non-UConn students into dining halls. 

This no-guest policy in dining halls is just one of the restrictions under UConn’s “COVID Campus Residential Code.” Updated in accordance with CDC and Mansfield, Connecticut guidelines back in August, the code establishes the measures currently in effect to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on campus. In the currently-in-effect “Orange” zone of its four-color system, face masks are recommended outdoors and required in all university buildings. 

In moving toward a more normal future, I understand that UConn’s hands are tied. The town of Mansfield has enforced an indoor mask mandate since Aug. 14, which limits any action that can be taken in the encircled village of Storrs. However, an easing of the Mansfield mandate is actually quite feasible. 

Just last week, the towns of Danbury, Glastonbury and Windsor — all more populous than Mansfield — lifted their mask mandates. According to CDC data, the average number of confirmed cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks* was 34, 21 and 26 in these three towns, respectively. By comparison, Mansfield reported just five new cases during that time. 

Although expected because of Connecticut’s high vaccination rate, these numbers are relatively impressive compared to similar-sized towns across the country. And just like the rest of their state, UConn students have proven quite capable of handling the pandemic. 

A cursory glance at the UConn COVID-19 Dashboard shows that 98% of the 10,000+ Storrs Campus residents have been fully vaccinated, with 43 residents still waiting on their second shot as of Tuesday, Oct. 19. As of that same date, the number of active — not new — COVID-19 cases is… drum roll please… a whopping five! Yes, five cases in a community of more than 10,000 people. This 0.0005%, or 1/20 of 1%, positivity rate sounds more like part of Bernie Sanders’ wealth tax plan than an imminent threat to public health. 

In fact, the number of simultaneous confirmed cases at UConn has not exceeded single digits all semester. Despite what mask mandates may lead one to believe, social distancing and vaccines are actually the independent variables in reducing COVID-19 cases. With last spring’s similar (if not stricter) mask restrictions in place, cases remained well into the dozens all semester, even as April brought warmth and less congregation of then-unvaccinated people indoors. 

Furthermore, UConn and the town of Mansfield must realize that delaying reopening into the winter season will dismantle much of the progress we have made as a community. As I alluded to earlier, colder weather brings more indoor congregation and consequently more COVID-19 transmission — social distancing is thus made much more difficult. 

If UConn’s restrictions exist because the powers that be believe a surge in cases is inevitable, why not move from Code Orange to “Yellow” while students are still spending some time outside? 

This is the same logic employed by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson when he reopened his country back in July, even as Delta variant cases were on the rise. The UK’s vaccination rate at the time was comparable to Connecticut’s currently (and much lower than UConn’s), and cases decreased steadily for a month following Johnson’s lifting of restrictions. 

As one can deduce from Johnson’s actions, the longer UConn remains content to accompany Mansfield in its passive, unsustainable approach to public health, the worse this upcoming flu season is going to be. 

For what it’s worth, I’ve been fighting a terrible sinus infection for more than two weeks now, and I’m certain that I’m not the only student whose immune system has been compromised since mask mandates first went into effect 19 months ago. Another winter of forced masking will only lead to many more, worse respiratory illness outbreaks on campus when COVID-19 is all said and done. 

Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, it is simply wrong to continue to subject students who have complied at every turn — and endured a compromised educational experience for nearly two years — to continue making sacrifices for a healthy and highly vaccinated community. The Classes of 2020 and 2021 were subjected to strict restrictions in their prime years of college, and this year’s seniors could graduate having not lived a desirable college lifestyle since they were sophomores. 

If UConn is willing to fill its residence halls to full capacity and even host the President of the United States on campus, then moving to Code Yellow immediately is the least it can do to fulfill its obligation as a top-tier public university. 

27 COMMENTS

  1. Yeah, nope. Everything in this article is based in conjecture, personal opinion, and faulty logic/disproven science. You want to know why we’ve only had five cases? It’s because we’re taking it seriously. It’s because we’ve BEEN taking it seriously for over a year now. No, your sinus infection has nothing to do with your mask. No, all of us taking off our masks in unison isn’t going to make the flu season magically better (huh? I mean, WHAT?). The author’s prose reeks of entitled, “don’t tread on me” rhetoric. A quick glance at his LinkedIn profile shows that he’s an editorial intern for an openly biased news organization (“Townhall Media” that boasts about writing “political news articles with a right-of-center slant” and includes properties like RedState and “Bearing Arms,” a podcast dedicated to promoting the gun lobby). So, basically, Carson Swick is a mouthpiece for the party of Trump, and he’s using his position as a Staff Writer for the Daily Campus to amplify the same dangerous, disproven, anti-mask and anti-vax messaging that got us in this mess in the first place. Really? A lightweight cloth strip is such a taxing personal inconvenience that you’d rather put people’s health and safety at risk? I sure as hell don’t want to be forced to work indoors with people that may not be vaccinated. 2% of the (wonderfully vague) “10,000+” number cited is still hundreds of unvaccinated people wandering among us. Sorry buddy, we’re still in the middle of a pandemic where more than 1,100 people are dying daily across the country (thanks in no small part to a vocal subset calling COVID a hoax and perpetuating lies–a subset, I might add, that you proudly admit to aligning with). I have zero sympathy for your “compromised educational experience” and I’m (not) sorry that this hasn’t been a “desirable college lifestyle” in your eyes. While you stare dejectedly out your window, longing for the day that you can leer judgmentally at people without a mask covering your scowling face, I’m going to enjoy heading home from my job to take my mask off, wash my hands, and hug my family without stressing about giving them COVID.

    • gUyS dOn’T yOu KnOw We’Re In A pAnDeMiC?!?! Dude, out of the 10,000 residential students here, there has been one 1 reported case in the past two weeks. If UConn ever actually planned on moving to yellow anytime this school year, now is the time to do it. But they don’t. I applaud Carson Swick for speaking up for the silent majority of students who are over these nonsensical Covid-19 restrictions and would like to move on.

      • Haha. ThE SiLenT maJORitY!!1 Q seNt mE! Jeez, I wonder why we’ve had such low COVID rates. Could it be that we’re getting vaccinated, wearing masks, maintaining protocols, and not doing the same stupid crap that people in FL, TN, AL, AR, SD, MS, TX, and other insanely hard-hit states are doing? Can’t post links here, but a University of Minnesota article published recently notes that the “southern United States is entering the fifth week of its fourth COVID-19 surge, this one fueled by the highly transmissible Delta (B1617.2) variant, which is spreading quickly.” Notably, “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott banned mask or vaccine mandates… Austin, Texas, city officials sent out a message via text and email to residents, warning, “The Covid-19 situation in Austin is dire. Healthcare facilities are open but resources are limited due to a surge in cases.” It also notes that “the 7-day average of new cases in Florida is up 22%. Only Mississippi and Alabama have higher jumps in daily averages, with 41% and 35%, respectively. Arkansas has seen its daily case counts jump by 21%.” The state of Florida, as recently as a month ago, saw 24,000 new cases in a single day… and approximately one in four hospital beds in the state had a COVID-19 patient in it.” Guess what? Florida’s insane governor banned mask mandates in schools. Sorry Matt, I’d rather stay healthy than be forced to work in unsafe conditions just so you don’t have to wear a mask. Glad I live in Connecticut.

      • always funny when people with hard to defend positions cite the “silent majority.” like “you can’t prove me wrong because they’re SECRET. get real. I don’t like wearing a mask but if it keeps campus safe and prevents us from shutting down again I’m in.

    • When will it all end then? What is the goal we are working towards? Complete eradication?

      The goalpost have been moved miles since we first started two years ago starting with “two weeks to slow the spread”, then “don’t wear masks, they are ineffective”, to “actually, wear masks and wait until the vaccine”, to “you don’t need a mask if you are vaccinated”, to “wear masks until enough people are vaccinated”, to “wear masks despite being vaccinated yourself”, and here we are, 98% vaccinated, with very few positive numbers on campus, still wearing masks with no end in sight. If eradication is your goal, research diseases that humanity has successfully eradicated. You will see that it is incredibly difficult and highly unlikely in the case of coronaviruses.

      People are tired and the vast majority of us simply do not care anymore to continue complying. Want to keep wearing masks and isolating for your safety? Go right ahead, nobody is saying you cant. It is your life, live it how you wish. The rest of us are ready to move on and start living. There is an inherent risk to life that one must accept. I am more likely to perish in a car accident, get hit by a bus, choke on an apple, trip funny and hit my head wrong, or get struck by lightning and die than I am to die of COVID (I already had it, too). If I gave into these fears, I might as well hermetically seal my room and have food delivered into an sterile airlock and never have to take those risks again, but at a certain point it would be considered highly irrational.

      I see it with just about everyone I’ve spoken to; people are over it. Keep masking, keep isolating, get every latest booster shot under the sun if it makes you feel better. Nobody wants to cower in fear for the rest of their life. When you let the fear of losing your life control your actions like that, in a way your life is already gone. By all means, do whatever it takes for you to hug your family with a clean conscience. Just understand that the majority of your peers do not share your outlook, and you would do well to understand why many of us feel this way rather than use the issue as a platform to showcase your moral self-righteousness.

      • Everybody you’ve spoken to is done with masks? The “majority” of my peers don’t share my outlook? That’s super interesting to hear because nearly all of my colleagues and coworkers would prefer the masks stay in place. Guess you’re in your bubble and I’m in mine. Moral self-righteousness? Ha. No. Just listening to the experts. Also, we’re not cowering in fear. I live my life. I just don’t want to be forced to work indoors with unmasked people who may not be vaccinated. I’m not allowed to ask you about your vaccination status, so I’d prefer you kept your mask on and kept your six-foot distance. Your freedoms don’t override mine.

      • Hi Colin, when my job at UConn doesn’t require that I’m indoors, I spend most of my time outside. Thanks for your concern though!

    • you don’t have to wear your mask, you just can’t not wear it here. be civilly disobediant all you want, it’s a CDC-recommended mask, not a pair of leg irons. crybabies lol

  2. Listen to Kyle! Only through continuous mask wearing (for all of eternity) will we be able to live knowing we are safe! Don’t worry about the 50% of people not even wearing it correctly. That doesn’t matter, what matters is knowing that that small lightweight strip of cloth is the only thing stopping the ever enclosing void of death from taking us all out!

    • y’all are pathetic – it’s not about the idiots who don’t have the brainpower to wear a mask correctly, it’s about the fact that it’s the university’s policy to wear them indoors. some people are forced to work indoors as a requirement of their job. students can come and go. if you don’t want to wear a mask, go outside or go home. employees don’t have that luxury

    • So when do you say is the point where we stop wearing masks? Virtually everyone is vaccinated. Do we wear them until the disease is eradicated? The WHO has only declared two diseases as eradicated: smallpox and rinderpest, two diseases that are nothing like COVID from a biological standpoint. Covid will not be eradicated in our lifetime.

      Without a definitive point where we say “we no longer need to wear masks”, the logical assumption then is that you intend to wear them for eternity. The vast majority of people are not going to be doing that, but you are free to do so if you wish.

    • exactly. anti-maskers love to talk about how everybody’s vaccinated (but they not – hundreds of unvaccinated around campus) and the super-low positive/transmission rates, but they’re too thick to understand that it’s in-part BECAUSE of the mask mandates that we’re able to keep everything open and running smoothly. All we heard last year was complaining because the campus got shut down, so they open it back up with conditions, and then the conditions are too much. whatever

  3. As an undergrad with two kids at home, I am grateful for UConn’s Covid-19 precautions. It’s not just students who are benefitting from this, faculty, administration, and staff (and those they live with and come into close contact with) are all given better protection by adhering to the steps we are taking on campus.

    • completely agree. it’s not just students who benefit, even though it’s these precautions that keep the campus open, it’s everybody. You never know who’s immunocompromised, or who might have underlying health conditions, or who may have lung disease of some kind (which even a vaccinated case of COVID can be a death sentence). Feels like there’s no respect at all for anybody but themselves. they don’t have to be indoors, but others might.

  4. “Another winter of forced masking will only lead to many more, worse respiratory illness outbreaks on campus when COVID-19 is all said and done.” What is the basis for such a ridiculous claim as this? We’re claiming that mask mandates will somehow make people more sick? Maybe this issue demands deeper consideration than listing out some local statistics and jokingly comparing them to Bernie’s tax plans or whatever was trying to be said there.

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