Put simply, the COVID-19 vaccine is not everything we hoped it might be. Let me be clear: The COVID vaccine is safe and effective, and if you haven’t gotten it, you should. With that said, it is becoming glaringly apparent that the vaccinated can still contract COVID-19 and spread it to others. Vaccinated students may only become aware they have contracted COVID-19 after receiving a positive test, making it critically important that vaccinated students continue to test regularly this fall.
As the summer of 2021 began, many people, including myself, were cautiously optimistic that we would finally be able to return to a sense of normalcy. Bars and restaurants were opening again, capacity limits were being raised, mask mandates were ending and the students of the University of Wisconsin-Madison believed a regular fall semester was on the horizon. The emergence of the Delta variant quickly put those hopes into perspective.
One night, one of my roommates came home with several bottles of cold medicine in tow. Amidst summer allergies and finally exposing our immune systems to environments outside our home, no one thought much of it. One week later, four of us had tested positive for COVID-19. Perhaps thanks to our vaccines, none of us felt we had anything worse than a mild cold — and that was part of the problem. Some of us continued to work and see friends in the meantime, conceivably perpetuating the spread of COVID-19.
Over the past year and a half, UW-Madison has continued to take half-hearted measures to combat the pandemic. Unsurprisingly, balancing student safety with profits and politics has been a failing strategy. Under current campus policy, unvaccinated students and employees must continue to test weekly on campus during the fall semester. However, the university believes 92% of employees and at least 88% of students to be vaccinated — all of which will not have specific testing requirements in place unless required by employers or other services.
Both Dane County and the university currently have mask mandates in place, but this safety protocol will prove insufficient in preventing the spread of COVID-19. As UW-Madison officials state, the majority of infections are spread off-campus rather than in the classroom. Masking on campus is not enough.
According to the New York Times, Rice University — a private Texas university boasting a vaccination rate of 98.5% for students — has decided to move classes back online. Even amidst high vaccination rates and required face coverings indoors, the dean wrote in a letter to students that positive test rates were much higher than expected among the vaccinated. UW-Madison should look to Rice University as an example of what may be in our future if we do not take the necessary steps to keep the spread of the virus under control.
In the interest of ourselves and our community, all vaccinated students should continue to get tested regularly. Keeping the spread low is our only chance of attending Badger games, in-person classes and community events this semester. Even more gravely, we must do everything we can to protect those who cannot get vaccinated, including children and the immunocompromised.
For those of you who are tired of wearing masks to stores and gyms and having cotton swabs stuck up your noses, believe me, so am I. Regardless, I am still committed to doing whatever it takes to stay on campus this fall. I hope you are too.
Ellie Olson is a junior studying philosophy and neurobiology. Do you agree that testing the vaccinated is crucial to campus safety? Send all comments to firstname.lastname@example.org