UA should embrace the mask mandate extension

Alex Jobin, Staff Columnist

At this point, saying “COVID-19 isn’t over yet” feels like beating a dead horse, but beating a dead horse is better than believing that horse dewormer will protect you from a virus that already has an FDA-approved vaccine.

And it’s the truth: The COVID-19 pandemic is still a part of our lives no matter how much we wish it wasn’t. We can’t wish it away. That is why The University of Alabama should be commended for its decision to uphold its indoor mask mandate through Oct. 1.

Originally, the University announced that it would review its mask policy after the first two weeks of the semester. This was a welcome safety measure to all concerned about the spread of COVID-19, particularly in light of the raging delta variant.

To some, it may feel unnecessary to maintain these precautions, but we must understand the reality of our situation. The state of Alabama had about 4,500 new cases and 68 COVID-19-related deaths yesterday. About 2,700 people are hospitalized in Alabama’s hospitals with the virus.

At The University of Alabama, 126 student cases and 31 faculty and staff cases were recorded for the week of Aug. 30 through Sept. 5. 

By not taking precautions, students are actively overloading an already burdened healthcare system.

The small inconvenience of mask-wearing is worth the lives that it can save. These lives should be enough of a reason to stick to this mandate and continue to heed the regulations set in place by the University. On top of that, mask-wearing directly correlates to our ability to continue in person.

Right now, around 60% of the Capstone’s student population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. 

Now, it is possible that the University is extending the mandate to simply keep up appearances and remove any liability they may have in the case of a serious viral outbreak, but this does not change the efficacy or the necessity of the policy. No matter the University’s intentions, the decision will ultimately benefit the public health of the Capstone and Tuscaloosa at large.

With all the incentives the University has put in place, one would hope that far more students would have received the vaccine and reported it. If you are sick of masks, get the vaccine and convince your unvaccinated friends to do the same.  

Wearing a mask may be a minor inconvenience to you, but it is an act that can save the lives of vulnerable people in this state. If the virus is still a concern by October — and if the tally of vaccinated students has not substantially increased — the University should extend the mask mandate again

If the University wants to see masks go away as much as we do, then it should strongly consider implementing vaccination requirements for accessibility to certain campus facilities. In addition to requiring vaccines, the University must explore why students seem so hesitant to get the vaccine. 

In a world of dangerous misinformation, this could include the University providing reliable sources on the vaccine, or even hosting seminars by qualified scientists in the field.

I applaud the University for upholding the mask mandate despite its unpopularity, but we can still do more to curtail COVID-19.