On Friday, Wichita State announced it was dropping all COVID-19 health orders on campus— such as enforced social distancing, mask wearing, and gathering number limits.
It makes some sense. Recently, the case and hospital numbers both have seen a decrease and a large selection of Kansas’ population have received the vaccination. There is a light at the end of the tunnel.
But even with all of those aspects in mind, Wichita State’s decision to suddenly drop every mandate and call it good is an easy way to put the university’s students, staff, and faculty at risk of infection.
When the university went online in March of 2020, there was yet to be an identified COVID case in Sedgwick County. Now, over a year later, the coronavirus has made its why into the majority of families and friendship circles. Knowing someone who is currently fighting the virus is a common occurrence. What makes it safe now that wasn’t safe in March of 2020?
Just because the vaccine is now available to all of the population does not mean automatically every community member is immunized. Many of our citizens have not been able to receive the vaccine yet due to many factors. Schedules, locations, and accessibility play a large role in whether someone has received it or not.
Even with a large number of those who plan to get vaccinated, there is still a large number of our population who have no intentions of receiving the vaccine. While the vaccine has proven to be a safe and effective way to help stop the spread of the novel coronavirus, it’s still true to say many citizens will not receive the vaccine automatically after it was offered to them.
But even if every single person goes out there today and gets vaccinated— it is still not safe to drop every single mandate right away.
It’s true, everyone wants to get back to normal. No one wants to wear masks and keep six feet distance between people at all times. But in order to get back to that normal, jumping off a cliff to do so is not the answer.
Lifting all mandates risks a case number spike on campus. If one person walks on campus without a mask, carries the virus to an entire group of people not wearing a mask, all of a sudden the university could find itselves back to where it started.
There are safer ways to reach normalcy again. Start slow. Ease into normal. There are many options the university could’ve looked into.
Don’t rush into things, Wichita State. That’s not putting students first. It’s risking your student, faculty, and staff groups.
Students won’t feel safe if they walk into class and see no one wearing masks. Faculty won’t like when a student walks into their office for office hours and is breathing in their face. It is unfair to put the health and safety of our community in danger just because the county might be doing so.
As of Sunday, there have been 10 new cases in Sedgwick County with a 3.2% positivity rate, according to the county’s COVID-19 dashboard. These numbers are a lot better than recent times. They do provide some sense of hope.
But let’s not take off our parachute too soon. Let’s not risk that 3% rate to raise up any higher. We’re reaching the end, yes. But let’s not make this pandemic longer than it has to be.
There is a safe and effective way to go back to normal. This isn’t it.