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Letter to the Editor: First week, first positive test

I was a first-year at Miami during the 2020–2021 academic year — the year right after it all went down. It’s been a hard few years, and believe me when I say I know how much everyone wants to move on with their lives. But until we are able to manage the pandemic, we can’t do that without putting our community at risk.

By now, we should all have the tools to mitigate the spread of this virus. Let’s face it: until we get the pandemic under control, vaccines on their own are not enough. According to the CDC, 64% of Ohioans have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, yet all but two Ohio counties are medium to high risk for COVID transmission. As of August 25, 2022, Butler County is currently high risk

At this point, vaccines need to be supplemented by masks and social distancing so we can return to the low risk we had last semester, when the mask requirement was finally lifted.

Despite this, the Miami administration are trying their very hardest to wish away COVID — to simply manifest that it no longer affects college life. Unfortunately, COVID and its variants (especially the new, more antibody-resistant ones like BA.5) just don’t work like that.

My first two years at college, I tried my best to avoid COVID, and to my knowledge, I succeeded. Yet this year, I managed to test positive the day before classes started — I had to miss the first week of class and catch up on my own, all while feverish, out of breath and utterly exhausted. 

Spoiler alert: it sucked. (I’m fully vaccinated, by the way.)

The thing is, I have absolutely no idea where I picked it up. For the entire month of August, I had been constantly surrounded by unmasked people on Miami’s campus. (And I’d been unmasked myself, because there was immense social pressure to take it off.) From RA training to Welcome Weekend, I had been at massive events every single day — gatherings we would call “super spreader events” not one year ago.

And I’m not the only one. I keep hearing about people both in my community and across campus who are testing positive, one after another. As I’m writing this, it’s not even the fifth day of the semester. I can only imagine the COVID rates of the full university population. 

As an on-campus student, I’m worried, because I am living, working and getting an education all while dealing with the stress of continuing to live through this pandemic without the infrastructure needed to abate it.

In my opinion, the rate at which we are contracting this virus is dangerous. Miami needs to take accountability for the increasing risk of COVID to people who are here to either receive or help provide an education, as well as the people of Oxford who have the right to stay safe and healthy. The pandemic mitigation model of “just accept that everyone will get it at some point” puts at-risk individuals in danger of getting very sick, which is a major impediment to both education and — more importantly — quality of life.

The official COVID campus updates page says that Miami doesn’t anticipate the need for a universal mask requirement. Clearly, they need to reevaluate, because the COVID “prevention” system we’ve got going now is already beginning to fail one week into the semester. 

We need a mask mandate. 

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It won’t be fun, and we’ll all have to make some sacrifices, but it will be a hell of a lot better than the outbreak towards which we’re currently headed.