College is supposed to be the place where folks have some of the best years of their lives. But it’s starting to look like the Covid-19 response has put a stop to that — maybe for good.
Last month, Johns Hopkins University, one of the world’s leading research institutions and a renowned name in academia, recently notified returning students its restrictions would be, not less, but more severe.
The story is similar in universities around the country. Two years into the Covid-19 outbreak, U.S. students are still forced to comply with harsh and unjustified measures aimed to “prevent” them from spreading the virus. Consumed by groupthink, our institutions of higher education have faced the pandemic in lockstep, implementing extreme measures that may well be hit-or-miss in achieving the irrational goal of eradicating Covid-19. It has to stop.
Two Years On, the Rules Are Getting Worse
Among the provisions the Johns Hopkins letter lists is a notice that cloth masks or surgical masks alone no longer fit the bill — students are now required to wear N95s, KN95s, or mask up twice with both a cloth and surgical mask.
In addition, despite a nearly universal vaccination rate of 99 percent, Johns Hopkins is requiring its on-campus student body to submit two Covid-19 tests per week and demanded students get a booster shot by Feb. 1. The university says this is all in an attempt to “sustain the safe environment” of their campus.
To make matters worse, students’ only dining option is to bring grab-and-go meals back to their dorms as dining halls continue to be closed. Instead of allowing resources to flow through a high-risk population, like testing symptomatic individuals to meet rampant demand in JHU’s hometown of Baltimore, Md., universities like Johns Hopkins continue to neglect their role, turning potential health equity into a net negative.
Vax Status, Natural Immunity, and a Doctor’s Note Aren’t Enough
Only a handful of days after the letter was sent, a student suffering several adverse reactions to the Covid-19 vaccine had his application for a medical exemption to the booster mandate denied by the university’s Vaccine Management System Team. Never mind that the student experienced “a fever, severe gastrointestinal issues, and breathing problems” shortly after receiving the jab, and never mind that the student had already had the virus twice — despite being fully vaccinated. He still got no medical exemption.
Not even a doctor’s note confirming a medical exemption to the third shot, natural immunity, and vaccination status combined is enough to get you back on campus without the booster.
Johns Hopkins is not alone in this. Effectively all universities have similar policies. Boston’s Emerson College even enforced a two-week “stay in room directive” as if it were March 2020.
Omicron Is Hardly a Threat to College Students
In truth, the omicron variant is much milder than the delta one. According to data from the University of Hong Kong, omicron replicated more than 10 times less efficiently in an individual’s lung cells compared to the original variant. South African Health Minister Dr. Joe Phaahla noted that only 1.7 percent of Covid-infected people were hospitalized in the country’s second week of the omicron wave, in contrast to 19 percent during the second week of the delta variant surge.
By early 2020, we knew the risk of those aged 15-24 dying of Covid or dying with Covid was extremely low. Out of more than 42,000 Americans aged 15-24, there were 115 Covid deaths recorded by the CDC over the four weeks of November.
In addition most Covid-related deaths have carried an underlying theme: They involved unvaccinated individuals or those with medical comorbidities. One analysis in North Dakota found that the average age of a breakthrough patient being hospitalized was 71 years old. The average age for a vaccinated individual dying? 80.
Anyone with the slightest comprehension of statistics understands the risk of a college-aged person developing a breakthrough Covid infection that leads to severe illness and death is minuscule and not reflective of campuses’ current draconian restrictions.
What about adolescents and teenagers who do end up hospitalized? Data from the CDC found that out of 915 hospitalized children who had Covid, more than 60 percent of kids aged 12-17 had obesity. In the grand scheme of things, children have represented roughly 0.1 percent of total Covid deaths — more specifically, 910 people 18 and under in total have died from or with Covid since the pandemic began.
Science-Defying Booster Mandates
Despite their low risk of severe Covid, healthy college students face a new ill-advised roadblock: booster mandates.
Many institutions have now mandated a third shot, a decision based on insufficient data and unjustified logic. New data from Ontario suggests that after seven days, a booster is only 37 percent effective against omicron, well below the FDA’s 50 percent efficacy benchmark for Covid-19 vaccines.
Unfounded data isn’t the sole concern college students face amidst a fresh wave of new Covid restrictions. According to one study, men under 40 were more likely to develop myocarditis within 28 days of the Pfizer booster than in the 28 days following a Covid breakthrough infection.
Moderna’s shots have come under fire too, with data from Canada suggesting an even higher rate of myocarditis from Moderna’s second shot than Pfizer’s. Not only does this pose an unnecessary and potentially long-lasting risk for young men, but it lends more weight to Americans’ large distrust in the government’s inability to make a competent decision that promotes safety and timeliness.
The vast majority of educational institutions that implemented strict Covid protocols early continue to impose unjust constraints on an ultra-low-risk population. Regardless of the hard data that our so-called “public health experts” continue to turn a blind eye to, universities have dragged on with harsh restrictions in the face of a faux health crisis on campuses. With data showing booster efficacy dropping to numbers as low as 35 percent after just 10 weeks, will universities who pride themselves on critical thinking continue to require boosters every 3-6 months?
It’s anybody’s guess. But at the rate they’re going, none of these stupid restrictions will be removed anytime soon — they’ll only get worse.