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Sunday, September 19, 2021

Although news of a vaccine brings hope, we must remain vigilant

As we enter the worst wave yet, we should reconsider our priorities and continue to prevent the spread of COVID-19

On Wednesday, Dec. 2, the U.K. approved a COVID-19 vaccine, the first country to do so after high success rates were revealed by companies working on a vaccine. Both Pfizer and Moderna have announced over 90% success rates and have applied for U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization. If approved, Americans will start being vaccinated by the end of the year.

After almost eight months of mask-wearing, social distancing and working from home, news of a vaccine is uplifting. Only a few months ago, most of us were unsure if we’d ever gain back the normalcy we’ve been craving, but now, the life we knew pre-pandemic doesn’t seem so far out of reach anymore.

But we must be patient. Once the vaccine is approved, healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be the first to get it, followed by millions of other high-risk individuals. Most college students probably won’t see a vaccine for several months, as young adults between ages 18-24 have the lowest hospitalization rate

The vaccine also isn’t going to solve all of our problems immediately. Dr. Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), said that the majority of hospitals and care facilities are in COVID-19 hotspots and that the next few months will be extremely difficult, with cases and deaths expected to rise substantially through February. 

Knowing this, the way we’ve been responding to the pandemic so far should be reconsidered as we enter the worst wave to date. In March, 45 states closed their schools because of the virus, the beginning of the massive burden placed on the education system this year. While several schools have reopened, 11 states still have full or partial closures ordered, and many more cities where local governments get to decide have closed schools as well. Meanwhile, several states still allow indoor dining and recreation. 

Education should not be put on the back burner—restricting children to online learning will have severe long-term repercussions. Low-income and minority students are disproportionately struggling with online learning at home, and mothers have been forced to quit their jobs to care for their kids, potentially reversing progress towards gender equality in the workforce. Is this all worth getting to sit inside an empty restaurant? 

Regardless of the decisions of our policymakers, we have a responsibility to improve our conditions. In areas of the U.S. that have been COVID-19 hotspots, the highest positivity rate is among people ages 18-24. The data on these areas also show that this age group tended to be the first to increase in positivity rate, followed by older age groups who, in turn, faced higher rates of hospitalization and death. Trends show young people contracting and spreading COVID-19 to people who may not be able to recover from the virus so easily. 

The positivity rate in Yolo County alone has risen to 19.34%, higher than the current national average. And in Davis, 18-24 year-olds account for the highest number of cases. While an increase in testing can account for growth, this rate is cause for concern and action. 

We need to continue to be extremely cautious—individuals who haven’t been doing so need to start, now. This late in the year, we all know how to prevent the spread of the virus: wearing masks (that completely cover your nose and mouth), washing hands, social distancing and following other CDC guidelines. The people who aren’t abiding by these recommendations at this point are just showing how inconsiderate they are of others’ safety.

That being said, many of us are taking as much personal precaution as we can, while our roommates or loved ones aren’t convinced they need to. It’s difficult to have a conversation with a peer, or worse, a parent, about improving their behavior, but it’s necessary. Using scientifically-backed information about the spread of the disease is a good place to start, not to mention the staggering numbers: Over 150,000 new cases have been reported in the U.S. every day in the past six days. 

This should go without saying, but large gatherings should be avoided at all costs. In the university’s recent update on their investigation into an alleged party thrown by fraternity members, the chancellor apologized for “causing discomfort and embarrassment” to the organization, a sentiment that doesn’t exactly condemn this type of COVID-19-spreading behavior. If a group is accused of throwing a party, an investigation is an appropriate action to ensure both their safety and the community’s—no apologies necessary. 

That being said, we want to acknowledge the quick and effective testing process the university has implemented. All students, especially before and after going home, should be tested, but efforts should not stop there. 

The news of a vaccine, despite plenty of evidence indicating things will get worse before they get better, is still exciting. But we are only at the beginning of the end, and rather than easing up now that we know we can get out of this, we should be working harder than ever to stop the spread of COVID-19. Too much is at stake. 

Written by: The Editorial Board

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