About two weeks ago, a friend of mine showed me an email from her supervisor at Newcomb Hall, where she works part-time. In this email, she was notified that someone with whom she worked a shift had tested positive for COVID-19. She was then advised to get tested herself and possibly quarantine for a few days. This advice is, of course, patently insane.
UVA already mandated all students be vaccinated in order to enroll. Any person who is fully vaccinated against COVID should never be expected to get tested or quarantine ever again, especially if they have been told repeatedly that the vaccines are highly effective. Asking such a thing of those who got the jab undercuts the efficacy of the vaccines and justifies many people’s skepticism about them and hesitancy to receive them. UVA of all places should understand this; they disenrolled 238 unvaccinated students who did not show proof of vaccination or request an exemption.
Maybe UVA doesn’t believe in the efficacy of the vaccines after all. If they thought the vaccines worked, why do they mandate we wear masks? Why do they advise their employees to get tested and quarantine? Could it be because the vaccines aren’t effective at preventing the spread of the virus? Perhaps. But then what does anyone mean when they throw out the phrase “these vaccines work”? What exactly do they work at doing? As someone who already had COVID back in late December, I’m not really sure what good it’s done for me — I already had the antibodies. But the fact that the University’s policies ignore the existence and strength of natural immunity is a whole separate issue, so I digress. I believe, apparently in contrast to UVA, it’s been reliably shown that the vaccines prevent severe complications and hospitalization from COVID, which is a tremendous good.
Keep in mind: cases don’t make an illness a pandemic, hospitalizations and deaths do. If relatively very few people face severe side effects from having contracted the illness, it is of no public health concern. Furthermore, the fact that we have more therapeutics for COVID today than we did two years ago should provide an even greater incentive to loosen the mask and vaccine requirements. UVA disagrees.
In a recent email from Provost Liz Magill, “[the school’s administrators] have also decided to require all guests who attend a ticketed event at John Paul Jones Arena to provide proof of vaccination, or of a negative COVID-19 test before entering the venue,” scheduled to take effect October 18th. Now, I’m old enough to remember when this school used to respect individual liberties. It was in the summer of 2018 when I heard former Dean Allen Groves assure us incoming first years that just because some white supremacists decided to use these Grounds as a venue for a violent rally, our rights hadn’t changed. But, three short years later, because of a virus that statistically poses no serious risk to our age group and against which nearly all of us are fully vaccinated anyway, our rights have indeed changed.
Gone are the days of entering JPJ Arena with dignity. Instead, the current administration has decided to return this school to its segregationist roots. Now, the hierarchy is based on the superficial category of “vaccination status.” It’s as though one’s decision not to receive a dose of a COVID vaccine is not evidence of a prudential judgment, but is instead a sign of their unclean nature. This University’s undying commitment to “public health” has gone a step too far and is no longer about health. It is about a devotion to the Religion of Humanity, an appeasement to the bureaucratic elite that now controls our politics and culture.
If one thing has become clear, it is that this mask theater—to steal a phrase from fellow TJI contributor Will Mallas—will never end. The mask deadline has been moved twice now and will be moved again and again. UVA only cares about taking your money and couldn’t care less about the quality of your education. That’s why they tell you the year will be “normal,” while simultaneously telling you to get tested if you’re “exposed” to COVID, making you mask up indefinitely, and rebuilding Darden (among all the other construction projects around Central Grounds).
Who knows if UVA will embrace the advice of Lord Anthony Fauci and require us all to get COVID booster shots? Either way, I know where I stand: break the rules. Send a message to Ryan and Magill that they can’t treat us like this. We are all human beings and deserve to be treated as such. Muzzling ourselves and showing our papers to security is no way to live. Perhaps the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education should revoke our green-light rating Dean Groves boasted just three short years ago.