By ADAM J. MOORE — firstname.lastname@example.org
“Tested Positive for COVID” — I received yet another email from a student, informing me of their diagnosis and need for lecture and exam accommodations in the class I TA, the seventh such email in three days. The UC Davis campus, much like the rest of the U.S., is experiencing a massive surge in COVID-19 cases. However, the UC Davis administration has given no indication that more safety measures will be put in place.
Despite the White House sharing its prediction of 100 million new COVID-19 cases this fall, with hundreds of thousands of deaths, the UC Davis administration decided to remove the campus testing and symptom survey requirement for the summer and fall 2022 terms. This comes after rescinding the indoor mask mandate, one of our last, easiest and most equitable protective measures. Additionally, the Healthy Davis Together partnership with the city of Davis will be dissolved. This is a recipe for disease and death within and beyond campus as UC Davis does not exist in a bubble; the virus does not care what’s on-campus and what’s off. The broader Yolo and Sacramento counties are classified as highly vulnerable communities. That is, communities with economic, social and physical conditions that may make it hard to respond to and recover from a COVID-19 outbreak.
Allowing the virus to spread uninhibited on-campus puts off-campus communities at risk. The university has a responsibility to protect the surrounding communities as much as its own. Right now, UC Davis isn’t protecting either.
In the wake of the Delta wave last fall, UC Davis no longer made remote options for classes required, which had been in place the previous year. Without a guaranteed remote option, high-risk members of the UC Davis community like me have been forced to make an impossible decision everyday: expose ourselves to a debilitating and deadly virus or forgo our education and income. Those who live with high-risk people are forced to decide between keeping their roommates and loved ones safe, or attending a lecture that can easily be offered remotely.
UC Davis offers accommodations, but it involves a lengthy bureaucratic process that disabled students have identified as inaccessible. The UC-wide disability advocacy group, UC Access Now, delivered a Demandifesto to the UC system in 2020, outlining in detail how universities can provide an accessible and equitable environment for disabled people. As of June 2022, the university has not made any moves to adopt the recommendations and make the necessary accommodations.
New data suggests that 1 out of every 5 adults who get COVID-19 will experience a range of debilitating symptoms that can last for months to years, a syndrome known as “long COVID.” The majority of patients with long COVID-19 symptoms would have initially been classified as having a “mild” case. That is, when they first got sick, they didn’t need to be hospitalized. Early in the pandemic, it was believed that vaccination could at least prevent long COVID-19. To our community’s credit, UCD does have a high vaccination rate; however, new data indicates that vaccination may not provide substantial protection from long COVID-19. UCD is putting tens of thousands of people at risk for a life-changing condition by implementing policies that disregard the seriousness of this virus.
UC Davis should immediately reinstate an indoor mask mandate for the remainder of the school year, graduation ceremonies and anticipate masking for the fall term given the haunting prediction from the White House. The university needs to plan for all in-person campus activities (class, events, seminars, etc.) to be offered remotely as well to allow everyone the option to stay safe. Finally, the university must reverse course on its plan to drop the testing requirement. Regular testing is how we know the current transmission levels and what public health protection measures are necessary.
UC Davis must act with equity and science in mind. Over the last two years, the university has demonstrated that it has the knowledge and resources to keep its communities safe. Not doing these simple measures is an active choice to risk lives for the sake of “normalcy” that very few have the privilege to experience.
Written by: Adam J. Moore — email@example.com
Adam is an infectious disease epidemiologist and Ph.D. student at UC Davis studying viruses and public health. He has research experience with a variety of infectious diseases, including the virus that causes COVID-19.
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