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One in ten

| Tuesday, October 27, 2020

According to the HERE dashboard, 10.42% of my undergrad classmates have tested positive for COVID-19. As of today, there have been 910 undergraduate cases reported at a university with an undergraduate population of 8,731. For reference, a quick Google search and a calculator shows that about 2.65% of Americans nationally have tested positive for coronavirus.

Father Jenkins’ op-ed claimed that reopening was worth “the risk,” but what about when “the risk” is almost four times greater than it would have been if we stayed home and online?

The campus transitioned to two weeks of online instruction on Aug. 18, when there were only 268 positive cases identified, according to Monday’s dashboard. This was in lieu of returning home, because of the possibility of “getting this under control.” We are now at 1,026 cases. And the new message? We are almost at the end of the semester. Let’s finish “strong and healthy.”

There have been 101 reported cases in the last seven days. Undergraduate students, in particular, have gotten sick at a significantly higher rate than the general U.S. population. Yes, we may be in an age group with lower risk, but averages don’t account for students unaware of a risk factor that could debilitate them for life or even result in death if they get COVID-19. The higher the rate of infection, the higher the chance of a tragedy. And one tragedy is one too many.

We are seeing a second surge, and yet the administration is silent on returning to online classes or beginning a “staging” process of sending students home safely. Instead, the message that is being communicated to us? “We are hopeful this increased testing frequency will position us for a smooth end of the semester.”

Notre Dame’s administration appears to have lowered the bar since Aug. 18 for what constitutes a “worrisome trend” in cases and how to respond. It seems the current plan is to look past the numbers and continually emphasize that “we are almost done with the semester.” Ignore the fact that we promised safety, denied online options, yet ultimately saw extremely high undergrad infection rates.

Simply look at the current dashboard: The oldest day we can see now is Aug. 16, and that date has continued to move forward in the past weeks. Soon, they will stop showing the Aug. 17 to Aug. 19 spike altogether: out of sight, out of mind. Transparency comes into question. How ought Notre Dame students respond if our leaders don’t show us virtue by example?

Ultimately, what will the administration likely do when exams wrap up on Nov. 20, with some 1,200-1,500 positive cases in the books? Simply thank everyone for their adherence to HERE and how that led to a “successful semester together.”

That claim can be made, but in terms of putting students, faculty, employees and the wider community’s health first? The numbers indicate this semester was far from successful.

Luke Nordman


Oct. 26

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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