93 Deaths and Counting: Why HSU Shouldn’t Reopen

Why does HSU attempt to bring back in-person learning as COVID-19 positivity and death rates go up at a staggering degree?
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HSU is not ready for in-person learning. Currently people all across the country are itching to leave COVID-19 behind and the university is no exception to this. Many are holding the sentiment of, “I did my time and got my vaccine, now where is my reward?” That is not the way the world works.

Humboldt State University, willing a situation to be one way does not change the reality that it is actually another. The reality is that the county in which this university functions has an extremely concerning COVID-19 positivity rate and the death rates are going up as we speak.

As of writing this piece, according to data released by the Humboldt County Department of Health & Human Services, we have a COVID-19 positivity rate that bounces between 10 to over 20% and a death count of 93. Almost half of those deaths came from the last two months.

Prior to the introduction of the Delta variant in July, COVID-19 only had a local death count of 22 by the end of 2020 and an additional 28 deaths by June of 2021. Aside from this alarming increase in deaths due to the Delta variant, by allowing things to go “back to normal” we continue to open the floodgates of more types of mutations which could hold worse consequences than just an increased susceptibility.

That begs the question, though. What about this hybrid or HyFlex learning that HSU has been attempting? Is that not the middle ground answer to this problem? No, it is not. Even if only vaccinated students were allowed on campus, with masks on, social distancing to the strictest sense, mutation would and does still occur.

There is substantial evidence, as expressed by disease specialists such as Dr. Peter Chin-Hong and Dr. Ashish Jha, that more common forms of masks, such as the cloth masks we often see across campus, are not as effective at preventing the spread of Delta as it is with previous variants. This is absolutely not to say cloth masks do nothing at all or that they are equal to not masking up at all, just that the likelihood of passing COVID-19 around while wearing one is still very much there.

This whole argument, however, relies heavily on the idea that both students and faculty alike will and do follow the university’s pandemic guidelines to the strictest degree. Whether due to purposeful negligence or simple human error, there is no doubt in my mind and many others, that not only will vaccinated people break these rules, but unvaccinated people who come on campus will too.

Lastly, HyFlex learning is not as efficient or accessible as full in-person learning or full online learning. In many ways, it takes the worst of each form without taking any of the positives. Many students have already begun to struggle academically as professors attempt to learn to use the technology necessary for HyFlex learning on the job, inevitably failing to do so at times.

This situation has left many fully online students feeling left behind compared to their fully in-person peers. We feel cheated, promised the choice of a full online semester that the university in practice didn’t actually put into consideration in their attempts to push in-person learning back onto the masses.

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