The public gets very irritated when experts seemingly contradict each other, and especially when an expert gives advice that does not precisely match up with his or her previous advice. At the beginning of September, when college students returned to their campuses, it quickly became obvious that the SARS-CoV-2 organism meant to have a say in the matter. As NBC’s Erika Edwards noted,
Thousands of cases have been reported nationwide, forcing universities to switch to virtual classes and either quarantine or, in some cases, send students back home whether or not they’re sick. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, is urging colleges: If at all possible, do not send students home.
What were the schools supposed to do? Hold thousands of young adults under indefinite house arrest? But Dr. Fauci made the excellent point that returning all these young people to the cities and towns they came from would be an excellent way to spread the disease even more lavishly. Since jails and prisons had become death-traps, similar discussions transpired over the idea of letting non-violent offenders out of institutions early, especially those who had not even yet been sentenced.
But where would they go? Out into the community, and in far too many cases, into the homeless community, which already has enough problems. The same argument applies to family members who cannot restrain themselves from traveling all over the country for holiday gatherings. Even with the most beneficent intentions, and hearts full of love, what is to stop them from carrying the virus to every hitherto uninfected corner of the world?
In mid-September, the Annals of Internal Medicine published a piece authored by three doctors, that summed up the state of affairs as currently understood. Although most infected people do not infect others, those who do are likely to do a mighty good job of it. Part of the problem is that often, people are honestly and earnestly unaware that they carry the virus.
But this stark sentence throws cold water on innocence: “Infectiousness peaks around a day before symptom onset.” In other words, a person who feels perfectly well can quite efficiently spread the infection before experiencing the first cough, fever, or headache. And this doesn’t even consider the people who are perfectly capable of bringing COVID-19 into the lives of others, despite never developing symptoms themselves.
In regard to college campuses, efforts toward containment have inspired harsh criticisms, inspiring such headlines as, “How Covid-19 Turned College Campuses Into Surveillance Machines.”
Amrita Khalid describes PathCheck GPS+, the contact-tracing smartphone application created at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and an already-existing system called Appearance Search; and the BioButton, which inspired students complaints of privacy violation. The writer then adds,
There’s no indication that all this surveillance is helpful for the purposes of slowing the spread of Covid-19. Syracuse University is a campus with over 1,100 security cameras. But as the editorial board of the Daily Orange noted, this did nothing to stop a group of over 100 freshmen from holding a party in the middle of campus, only a few hundred feet from the school’s public safety office.
Your responses and feedback are welcome!
Source: “COVID-19 at colleges: Fauci warns not to send students home,” NBCNews.com, 09/03/20
Source: “Transmission of SARS-CoV-2: A Review of Viral, Host, and Environmental Factors,” ACPJournals.org, 09/17/20
Source: “How Covid-19 Turned College Campuses Into Surveillance Machines,” Medium.com, 10/20/20
Image by West Virginia National Guard/CC BY 2.0