The pandemic cannot go on forever

The rise of the COVID-19 variant Omicron should not lead to school closures

Skyline College should remain open for Spring 2022 despite new fears over the Omicron variant.

The desire for student and faculty student-safety is important if not necessary. However, the desire for COVID-19 safety should not lead to an over precautious environment where education and campus life are devalued.

A primarily virtual Skyline College was needed to protect the community from the pandemic, but it did not come without sacrifice.

Despite many professors’ best attempts, classroom atmospheres were almost never truly replicated over Zoom. Students and professors alike often spent most of the class time looking into faceless nameplates, waiting for someone to engage with a topic that was being presented.

This is not an indictment on professors or their students, just an acknowledgment that Zoom classrooms failed to reach the reality of in-person classes.

Students were unable to connect with each other and campus life suffered. Many have felt isolated as if they are not a member of Skyline’s community but a foreign object trying to find if it belongs. Students set to graduate this spring are likely to have only stepped foot on campus a few times if they have been to campus at all.

These procedures were the price for our safety, but with new vaccination requirements and evidence pointing towards Omicron’s lack of severity, the price does not seem worth paying.

Skyline has laid out clear guidelines regarding mask mandates and mandatory vaccination requirements for students planning on attending in-person classes. We cannot expect COVID-19 and its variants to magically disappear; we should trust the CDC-backed science and open into normality.

While Omicron presents a new aspect to consider, it does not appear to pose a significant threat to the population. Dr. Angelique Coetzee, who helped discover the Omicron variant in South Africa, reported that the new cases are generally mild in nature.

“..but for now, not more (serious) than Delta, clinical picture (was) that of mild disease in majority of cases,” Coetzee told The Economic Times. “It might be more transmissible than Delta.”

While data shows higher transmission rates, hospitalizations and deaths have not shown to significantly increase according to White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.

“Clearly, in South Africa, Omicron has a transmission advantage,” Fauci told CNN. “Although it’s too early to make any definitive statements about it, thus far it does not look like there’s a great degree of severity to it.”

While top scientists like Coetzee and Fauci are falling short of saying Omicron is nothing, it is clear that there are many signs pointing in favor of reopening. Especially when considering the social and academic cost that comes with school closures.

The truth is, variants will continue to pop up and we cannot continue lockdowns forever. Armed with facts and science our community leaders have and will continue to impose responsible COVID-19 health and safety measures that will protect us in our everyday lives.

The health and safety infrastructure built over the past year provides our community with the ability to tackle this virus while returning to our everyday lives. This is evident in the many universities that opened their doors for the fall semester.

We should not let fear crowd out science, Skyline should open up in the Spring as previously planned.