Is this year really COVID safe?

By Shannon Garrido, Deputy Opinion Editor

If you would have asked me in mid-June whether I thought removing the mask mandate and relieving some social distancing measures was a sign that things could finally revert back to normal at Emerson College, I would have probably said yes. With Emerson requiring both students and staff to be fully vaccinated, it seems like the close to ideal conditions to go back to full in-person classes as well. But of course, like everything surrounding COVID, it seems like a new issue (or variant) is constantly on the horizon making it harder to see us ever going back to normal. 

The more time passes, it seems that in order to keep people safe there is very little Emerson can do for now that doesn’t involve a strict mask mandate and social distancing measures. However the biggest COVID-19 concern this semester should be the lack of knowledge on vaccinated and unvaccinated students, faculty, and staff.

With Massachusetts spiking from a seven-day average of 100 cases in mid-June to 1,775 as of August 31st, staying safe should still be a very real priority for Emerson students and staff. However, while breakthrough cases are being reported most new cases are in the unvaccinated and the highly infectious delta variant causing breakthrough numbers in even vaccinated individuals

On Wednesday, Sep 1st a report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health stated that 620 patients with confirmed coronavirus cases were hospitalized in the state, of which 169 were reported to be in an intensive care unit. Even Emerson has already seen 14 new positive tests and the official move-in ended on August 29th. 

So although the death toll is still significantly low, cases and deaths from COVID-19 are expected to rise in many states, including Massachusetts, as the nation struggles to grapple with the highly contagious delta variant, according to modeling projections from the University of Washington and another from a team of Massachusetts scientists reported by The Boston Globe.

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Now while I believe Emerson Administrators made the right choice by mandating vaccinations on campus and reinstating the mask mandate, it is still up in the air what is in store for those who have a religious or medical vaccination exemption and how that will contribute to the spread of the Delta variant. After all, we still have no way of knowing how many Emerson students and staff are actually fully vaccinated. This means that it is impossible to truly know who could potentially spread the Delta variant to vaccinated students and staff regardless of how small the number is. 

We cannot speak for all students or staff who have very little wiggle room in terms of whether or not they get the vaccine, but regardless this vaccine is not a cure. With the Delta variant on the horizon and this ease in social distancing measures there is a big possibility that without a nationwide mask mandate that could prevent roughly 1,300 deaths in Massachusetts by Dec. 1, we would have to revert back to stricter regulations. 

Nevertheless, if you are part of the large majority that is vaccinated while they are somewhat less protective against delta, they are still highly effective at preventing people from getting severely ill and in some cases dying.