About one year ago, The Review staff urged peers to refrain from indulging in a tradition sacred to university students from our campus and across the country: partying. This is due to the fact that in September 2020, COVID-19 cases were rampant, many universities were condemned to virtual learning and mask-wearing was a prerequisite to being in public.
But with the new development in vaccines and student readmittance to in-person learning, is “normal” partying on the horizon?
Our answer: No. At least, not yet.
Parties were once a staple for our student body. Without many students’ unwavering commitment to party culture, the university would not maintain its No. 2 ranking in the Princeton Review’s top party schools in the nation. Yet, as infections caused by the Delta variant — the predominant COVID-19 variant in the United States — pose a greater threat, we reason that the costs of attending large gatherings at this time heavily outweigh the benefits.
According to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Delta variant causes more infections and spreads faster than early forms of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. Not only is the Delta variant more contagious than previous variants; the CDC reports that it can also cause more severe illnesses. As a result, unvaccinated people are at greater risk, and even vaccinated people can experience breakthrough infections and spread the virus.
Despite the swiftness of the Delta wave, there is still a long road ahead in having a fully vaccinated country. At the time of writing this, only 52% of the U.S. population is completely vaccinated (receiving two vaccinations). In the state of Delaware, that number is the same (51.5%) with more than one million doses administered, according to the Delaware Environmental Public Health Tracking Network.
While the number of doses seems large, it has not stopped the community transmission rate, which remains high in all three Delaware counties, including the university’s home in New Castle County.
On May 24, 2021, the city of Newark amended its social gathering ordinance at private residences to remove all gathering limits. Newark’s pre-pandemic law requiring a city permit for gatherings over 150 people continues to remain in place.
As of July 13, Delaware is no longer in a state of emergency.
Like we have mentioned in our previous plea, the university and its students play a large role in the city of Newark. Off-campus parties do not just affect university students, but also Newark residents living nearby. Despite students being majorly vaccinated, surrounding communities were and continue to be impacted by COVID-19.
The Review gives credit to the university and the city of Newark for following recommendations provided by the relevant state, federal and public health authorities throughout the pandemic. Backed by statistical data, however, we know that we cannot ignore the scientific evidence surrounding the Delta variant.
It is now up to us — the student body — to flatten the new curve.
By this past spring, more than 450 students had been referred to the Office of Student Conduct with varying levels of disciplinary action for gatherings exceeding Newark’s ordinance and other COVID-19 violations. As we return back to in-person classes this fall semester, we must remind ourselves that we can do better.
To clarify, this is not an anti-party appeal. As Newark and surrounding areas lift gathering restrictions, the demand for partying may be higher than in months past. The Review acknowledges that although partying may take place once again, there is an urgent need to be smart and safe about it.
First, if you choose to party, wear a mask indoors. While mask mandates were lifted in some locations of the country months ago, the CDC recently reversed its masking recommendations, even for the vaccinated. That is because face masks reduce the transmission of Delta and other COVID-19 variants as well as they do for the original COVID-19 virus.
Second, take your party outdoors. When you are outside, you are less likely to breathe in enough of the respiratory droplets containing the virus that causes COVID-19 to become infected. Plus, being outdoors has multiple physical and psychological health benefits.
We do not doubt that much has changed in 365 days, let alone the very beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. The coronavirus vaccines allow for more freedom to physically return to life and give hope for the future that many of us have not known in a long time.
Nevertheless, no vaccine offers 100% protection. Our safe actions moving forward will be the end-all-be-all solution.
The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Laura Matusheski, managing mosaic editor. She may be reached at email@example.com.