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Editorial: Someday things will be different, but for now, campus COVID-19 protocols stay rightly in place

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Melisa Soysal/THE REVIEW
The Review commends the university’s decision, therefore, to keep mask mandates and physical distancing protocols in place until May 30, after the spring semester finishes.

On Friday May 21, passersby on Main Street could look to their side and find a Grotto Pizza, packed to the brim with maskless students and a line of eager Grottos-deprived patrons waiting to get in on the action. A year ago this would have been an egregious violation of city and state law, but now, this is apparently okay. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated their guidelines about mask-wearing and social distancing, saying that fully vaccinated individuals can “resume activities without wearing masks or physically distancing” in most places. 

Gov. John Carney, following these guidelines, issued an order to lift the mask mandate, which went into effect on May 21. This mandate allows fully vaccinated individuals to go unmasked in most indoor and outdoor settings, except for schools, public transit, crowded settings, healthcare facilities and congregate settings. 

“It’s clear that the COVID-19 vaccines are extremely safe and protective against infection and serious illness,” Carney said. “Delawareans who are fully vaccinated have significant protection against this virus and can feel comfortable getting back to the things they loved to do before this pandemic. For our neighbors who aren’t vaccinated, the message is clear. The COVID-19 vaccine is the best protection we have against the virus.”

On May 21, too, a number of restrictions on Delaware restaurants and businesses were lifted. Governor Carney changed social distancing guidelines in restaurants, retail, and other businesses from six feet to three feet and lifted all of the previous capacity restrictions. 

The science is clear that the vaccines are effective. Only about .01% of people so far have tested positive after being fully vaccinated. Vaccinated people run little risk of contracting and spreading the virus.

The new guidelines, however, create a situation where unvaccinated people can also take their masks off with few repercussions. Unless a private business checks for vaccination cards at the door or just keeps mask requirements in place within their property, there is little way to distinguish between the vaccinated and unvaccinated. 

This puts the vulnerable, unvaccinated members of our community in a difficult situation, as the U.S. and the Delaware community have still not reached herd immunity. About 39% of Delawareans are fully vaccinated, whereas Dr. Anthony Fauci suggests that 70-75% of the population needs to be vaccinated to reach the herd immunity level that will bring back normality. 

The Review commends the university’s decision, therefore, to keep mask mandates and physical distancing protocols in place until May 30, after the spring semester finishes. COVID-19 case numbers at the university have thankfully remained low in the past month, and by keeping protocols in place, the university has helped to ensure that the Newark community and the families that students will return to will stay safe. 

And by ending this semester off strong, hopefully Fall 2021 will promise a more normal semester and a safe de-masking process once all students are, without a doubt, fully vaccinated. 

The Review’s weekly editorials are written to reflect the majority opinion of The Review’s staff. This week’s editorial was written by Tara Lennon. She may be reached at tlennon@udel.edu.

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