Continue your diligence, Johnson

This week marks the end of NVU’s campus-wide mask mandate. For over a year, the Johnson and Lyndon campuses have, admirably, observed and upheld the mandate that has made in-person classes possible during this global health crisis. While this is certainly a milestone in the college’s battle with COVID, it is still our responsibility as members of the campus community to keep one another safe in what is still a raging pandemic.

At the time of writing, there are still over 1,000 deaths due to COVID per day in the United States. New variants continue to emerge regularly and it is often hard to feel confident that our firm grip on this problem is anything more than temporary.

A mask mandate lifted does not equal a virus defeated. If anything, this recent chance in policy means that our efforts to respect the health and safety of our peers should be redoubled.

For the most part, the human race has done a commendable job reacting to COVID-19 debacle. Hospitals and healthcare providers have grown exponentially in their ability to treat symptomatic COVID cases. The willingness of the majority of adults to wear a mask and reasonably participate in social distancing has curbed the spread of COVID in places where risk of transmission is high. Perhaps most notably, the advent of breakthrough MRNA vaccine technology has saved countless lives from needless death.

Accepting these measures and putting them into practice have been a large part of getting us to where we are today, but complacency threatens to send us back just as far as diligence has brought us forward. Without masks, the risk of infecting a student, teacher, or other member of our community will be amplified if the social distancing skills that we have been practicing for years are to fall by the wayside.
It is important to remember that each of us will react to infection differently, and while some may experience symptoms so mild that they never realize they have COVID, others could still pay the ultimate price. At risk populations of the elderly, obese, and immunocompromised are all represented on the Johnson campus. I argue that their right to safety far outweighs the right of an individual to go without a mask. That being said, the mask mandate has been dropped and inevitably there will be a large portion of the population that opts to enjoy the long forgotten pleasures of operating indoors without a mask.

With this inevitability in mind, we must take measures to protect those around us who are still, rightfully, concerned about the pandemic that continues and will continue to shadow us all for some time to come. Distancing indoors, avoiding high transmission situations, and, most importantly, staying home if you are sick should be at the front of our minds in all we do during the second half of this semester.

Consider your efforts to be nothing more than a basic gesture of respect to those around you. If altruism isn’t motivation enough, perhaps the fear of returning to masking indoors will be enough keep us trending in this positive direction. Our present situation is fragile and could easily make a 180 degree turn should we be careless with the opportunity we have been given.

Continue your diligence, Johnson. We have done a stellar job up to this point and now we must be more careful than ever in order to protect our position in the pandemic.