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COVID policy misstep

| Tuesday, January 18, 2022

For the last two years, we have all struggled (and surely failed at times) to balance mental health and physical health during a time when it has been impossible to protect both. Civil authorities, school officials and (when we’re at home) our parents have tried to tell us what to do based on limited and quickly evolving data. Inevitably, there have been and will continue to be hiccups, and policies will, for one reason or another, sometimes not make sense.

Some of the COVID-19 policies currently in place at Notre Dame are not consistent. For example, we have to wear a mask when entering the dining hall, but while we’re sitting at a table we are maskless for perhaps an hour. At the same time, official gatherings are not allowed to have food, even when these gatherings are not open to the public, despite this being little different from the dining halls during typical meal time. Instructors are forbidden from offering hybrid instruction, even to those in quarantine or isolation, further hindering these unfortunate individuals from being able to learn as effectively.

However, given the rapidly evolving COVID situation, it is understandable that decisions may have been made in haste, and as such, may not have been thought out as much as they could have been. I therefore have some recommendations to make.

First, give professors more discretion. This includes (above allowing those in quarantine or isolation to attend class over Zoom if they feel well enough to do so) letting professors allow other students (e.g., those who were contact traced but have not received a test result yet) to attend class remotely if this is mutually preferred. Further, for small, discussion-based classes, allow professors to drop the masking requirement in their classroom if they feel comfortable doing so and feel that this would facilitate discussion.

Second, drop the masking requirement in the dining hall. As it stands, it applies for a small fraction of the time spent in the dining hall, so there is little point in the rule being in place at all. On a similar note, official gatherings which are not open to the public should be allowed to have food and beverages. The situation presents an equivalent risk level to that of eating in the dining hall, and one which has already been accepted.

Finally, students should be able to efficiently give feedback on COVID policies as they evolve. One way to do this is through hall government, by periodically inviting hall presidents to communicate their dorm’s feelings about any policies. This way, students have a person they are familiar with to relay their concerns to, while administration is not overwhelmed by hundreds of students saying the same thing. It would also be easier than writing a Letter to the Editor. 

The other policies — requiring the booster for those without valid exemptions, updated quarantine/isolation procedures in accordance with evolving Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, etc. — do make sense. I hope we will reach the 90% booster threshold and enable the relaxing of some restrictions, and even in that case, my first and third recommendations would still be relevant.

J.J. Dyke


Jan. 17

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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