OPINION: Vax update: A step back from DePaul admin

DePaul  announced on May 8 that it would be rolling back its mandate requiring students, faculty, and staff to be vaccinated for Covid-19. This mandate was originally put in place at the start of the 2020 global outbreak. This information was shared by the DePaul Health Community Team in direct response to the current guidance from the CDC as well as federal and state government actions.

As of now, the Health Promotion & Wellness office has issued the following advice for DePaul community members to protect themselves: “DePaul will continue to remain a mask-friendly campus out of concern for fellow students and colleagues, and in the spirit of Take Care DePaul.” 

Communities have created spaces for those who are concerned about this virus and its erratic path, but individual action is not enough to combat the safety risks moving forward. Covid-19 can and will continuously spread if minimal action is taken against it.

Enforcing policies and guidelines and taking precautions would help monitor a thriving community’s wellbeing. Students would feel more ease in going to events on campus, visiting family on the weekends and visiting professors during office hours, all without high chances of being exposed to Covid-19.

“Community members can also download a mask-friendly zone poster to hang in their dorm, office, or cubicle to share their preferences with others,” said Tyler Wurst, director of Health Promotion & Wellness. “For those who are immunocompromised and have concerns about exposure, they are welcome to contact our office to seek out support, resources, and accommodations.” 

 Getting rid of precautionary steps to avoid the spread of viruses such as Covid-19 or the flu creates a bigger problem for everyone on campus. When safety measures are removed and students and faculty share classrooms and other spaces, they are risking their health everyday. 

“What DePaul needs to remember is that requiring the vaccine and operating under the assumption that every person in their crowded classrooms has been vaccinated is what allowed them to list the mask mandate in the first place,” said Taliesa Fortis, an immunocompromised animation student at DePaul.

 Getting rid of updated vaccine requirements for Covid-19 seems very backwards. When many schools, including Depaul, already require vaccinations for illnesses such as measles, chicken pox, HPV and polio, why would the case be different for this virus? If anything, Covid-19 is still present nationally and globally and dangerous  for people who contract the virus, short- and long-term.

More variants of those viruses are mutating, emerging, and spreading behind the scenes, and cases are ever-present in the city of Chicago, as well as the entire country. According to the Chicago Covid-19 database, since the end of April up until mid-May, there have been 750,071 cases and 45,838 hospitalizations. 

In fact, the multiple variants are being tracked closely by organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO), who updates on their website with current data everyday. These public data points have been curated by the Virus Evolution Working Group, which was created by WHO in June 2020. 

Allowing those who may have remained unvaccinated since the beginning not only puts themselves at more risk from these institutional changes, but puts the others around them in danger as well. Based on the public data, we know that in many of the peaks of Covid-19, those who were unvaccinated were more at risk every time.

“What we could do is enact these policies on our own volition,” Fortis  said. “DePaul not requiring vaccines or masks doesn’t mean we can implement that on our own for our safety and everyone else’s.” 

Allowing mask optional settings, Zoom hybrid classrooms for immunocompromised students or those who have fallen sick, and continuing vaccination requirements could be a better happy medium for all DePaulians. Making sure every student and faculty member is accounted for in terms of their health and well-being can ensure more participation and active involvement in the classrooms and in extracurriculars.