Photo by Ashley Kenney/Daily Bruin
Spending the last two years in the pandemic and trying to avoid getting sick with COVID-19 (or anything else, for that matter) has shown me a very scary cycle that the country goes through. When cases go down, it makes the rest of us sort of hopeful that the worst of the pandemic is behind us. National, state, and local governments ease up on masking and testing mandates and social distancing protocols. The return to “normal” seems closer than ever, and many people believe that the pandemic is finally over. Our lives can resume, our anxieties and fear of COVID-19 can magically go away. Rejoice, masses, rejoice!
Then cases go up again because there is a new variant, one that’s more transmissible than the last. Pandemic rules are begrudgingly enforced, and people are understandably upset that it isn’t over. The rug is pulled out from under them. The pandemic has taken so much from us, and it continues to take more.
Currently, Omicron BA.2 is the newest and possibly scariest variant making its rounds across the world. China has recently gone into another lockdown to protect its citizens from getting sick. Other countries have tried getting natural immunity from the virus by relaxing their rules. The United States is part of the latter group, changing quarantine and isolation rules following a positive COVID-19 test result and changing masking protocols to fit the needs of the economy, a move that has been rightfully criticized because we’ve watched how easing these protocols in the past have caused cases to rise.
I’ve written a few articles about the pandemic and its effects on UCLA, specifically covering protests led by the Disabled Student Union (DSU). Disabled and immunocompromised students are at the most risk with the newer variants. It’s not lost on me that the university watched us occupy Murphy Hall and made promises to better accommodate these students and advocate for hybrid learning only to announce that they’re easing masking and testing protocols as well as social distancing on April 11th with no announcement of implementing a plan for hybrid learning.
It makes me angry that we have to continuously fight for something as basic as masking and social distancing. It’s clear that the university doesn’t give a fuck about us, that we’re merely dollar signs to them and not at all human. I’m frustrated that we’re almost three years into this pandemic and we’re still having to fight for the university to care.
We must demand that UCLA reinstate these protocols. We must demand that UCLA continue the masking and testing protocols that kept us safe on campus.
Cases were at an all-time high at the beginning of Winter quarter, and that was even with the rules that UCLA had instated. With this new variant, case numbers may be worse than before, especially because no mandate on testing means students no longer have an incentive to test and take precautionary measures when they exhibit symptoms of COVID-19. Even worse, with a rise in asymptomatic cases, it’s difficult to tell who has COVID-19 without people getting tested regularly.
As many epidemiologists have pointed out, easing these protocols early is going to create a bigger public health crisis than the one we’re currently facing. It doesn’t help that public officials have refused to deal with this crisis and the UCLA administration is no different.
The administration should be ashamed that they’re putting the student body at risk for profit. They should be ashamed that they still haven’t offered remote classes for the Spring, especially for those of us that can’t afford to get sick, for whom a COVID-19 diagnosis would render us unable to catch up with courses.
The university, time and time again, has shown us that protection cannot be in their hands and that we must demand better from them ourselves.
I have worn a mask since the pandemic started. I have socially distanced the best I could. I have done everything that was asked of me for the sake of others, and I urge you to do the same until we can definitively say that COVID-19 is endemic. Things are far from “normal,” far from equitable access to education and healthcare. Please continue to mask, and isolate if you start experiencing symptoms or have been near someone with COVID-19. The university may have eased masking and testing protocols, but we must protect each other until they reinstate these protocols again when cases eventually go up because of their consistent negligence. We must force the university to care; their apathy over the last few years can no longer be ignored.