GVSU community’s COVID-19 vigilance is slipping, warns Lanthorn Editorial Board

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GVL / Katherine Vasile

Lanthorn Editorial Board

COVID-conscious faculty, staff and students have been noticing worrisome trends inside and outside of the classroom over the past few weeks. While they’re usually little things, like seeing people wear masks below their noses (rendering them pointless) or overhearing someone talk about attending a super-spreader event, these things combined constitute a relaxing attitude towards the enforcement of health and safety guidelines meant to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

At the time of publication, we’re more than two weeks past Grand Valley State University’s Sept. 30 vaccine mandate deadline. According to an Oct. 14 email from the Virus Action Team, 7% of the community is not in compliance with university policy and around 9% of the GVSU community received religious exemptions. While these exemptions are in compliance with university policy, they are unvaccinated. 

Getting vaccinated mitigates the damage of COVID-19 and seeing that so many people in the GVSU community are still unvaccinated is beyond disappointing. For those who are actually taking the ongoing global pandemic seriously, it borders on infuriating and displays disrespect and apathy towards the health and safety of others. 

Courtesy / GVSU COVID-19 Data Dashboard

A potential consequence of vaccine hesitancy, minimal testing and halfhearted enforcement of policy, cases of COVID-19 on campus are routinely sloping upwards, briefly declining, and trending upwards once again. As of Friday, Oct. 15, the GVSU community had 110 documented current active cases; including 8 faculty, 10 staff and 11 on-campus students. In comparison, Michigan State University had 72 cases in the week of Oct. 4, with 90% of students, faculty and staff reporting being vaccinated

Following the pattern, it’s likely that GVSU’s numbers will get worse in the coming days, and weeks. Over 17,000 people attended Saturday’s football game, with GVSU Athletics explicitly aiming to break the attendance record, bringing in thousands of students, parents and friends from communities that might not be taking the pandemic seriously. They were packed into the stands without masks or distancing. 

Next week, on Oct. 25 and 26, GVSU has a fall break, and students will risk bringing COVID-19 back to campus from communities that have high transmission rates, and low vaccination rates. 

If members of the GVSU community value their safety, and the safety of others, they should be taking as many steps as possible towards slowing the spread of COVID-19. For the unvaccinated, that means going to an on-campus vaccination event on Oct. 20 or 21 (or an off-campus vaccine clinic) and receiving a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine

But further minimizing the danger of COVID-19 requires more than getting vaccinated; students, faculty and staff should avoid taking unnecessary, extreme risks, like going to a public space or a large gathering without a mask for long stretches of time. 

While GVSU is asking for students to take the bare minimum of precautions, it’s ultimately up to the individual members of the community to step up and be responsible. Do more than the bare minimum; avoid doing the irresponsible things that the university doesn’t prohibit– or, in the case of Saturday’s big game, encourages.

19 months after Michigan’s shutdown began and the global pandemic started impacting our state and our school, it’s important to still be making safe and smart decisions, and it’s not too late to start.