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AN INDEPENDENT STUDENT NEWSPAPER SERVING THE GW COMMUNITY SINCE 1904

The GW Hatchet

Serving the GW Community since 1904

The GW Hatchet

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FRESHFARM workers ratify union agreement
By Max Porter, Contributing News Editor • February 15, 2024

Staff Editorial: It’s a post-pandemic world, if GW can keep it

Amid an increase in COVID cases nationwide, let’s neither catastrophize about nor blissfully ignore the virus.

We’re far past the pandemic’s peak, but COVID-19 cases are ticking upward nationwide. From sore throats and runny noses to face masks and canceled classes, something’s in the air at GW, literally. But we don’t know the full picture of COVID on campus — and neither do officials.

The University wound down its testing and contract tracing efforts at the end of last semester, cementing the “return to normalcy” that the decision to lift its classroom mask mandate in February already signaled. While we don’t need to return to the darkest days of the pandemic, keeping the “post” in our post-pandemic world will require GW to act on behalf of its community.

We’re all ready to move on from COVID, but it’s not done with us yet. Despite a decline in cases from January through early June, hospital admissions, deaths and levels of the virus in wastewater — all of which scientists use to measure COVID cases — have crept back up this summer. Anecdotally, it seems there’s been an uptick in COVID cases, too. But emails from a sick teacher canceling class or tales of friends skipping plans to self-isolate are no replacement for hard facts.

So, do these national trends hold true for the Buff and Blue? Whether you view COVID as just an inconvenience or a serious, life-threatening illness, that information simply isn’t available to you right now. As COVID waned, we traded universal measures for an individual but data-driven approach to public health. Besides sneezes, sniffles and empty seats in the lecture hall or classroom, we just don’t have that data now. Epidemiology is based on facts, not guesswork.

Are officials eager to further spend millions of dollars to restart the University’s contact tracing and testing system? Probably not. But it won’t take a massive response — or a mandate — to ensure that students, staff and faculty aren’t going at it alone amid an uptick in COVID cases.

If GW’s done dealing with COVID on an institutional scale, it can at least help connect individuals to the resources they need, from masks and at-home tests to vaccinations and booster shots. Officials can provide face masks at residence halls and high-traffic areas around campus and allow community members to request at-home tests through GW.

Creating a simple way to upload the results of those tests would give community members some picture of the state of COVID on campus. And when it comes time for the school to have its annual flu vaccine clinic, it wouldn’t hurt to add COVID boosters to the list — the University sent out emails advertising free COVID booster shots and flu vaccines last fall. But above all, we need regular communication from officials about the presence of COVID on campus and in D.C., especially when we’re facing more cases.

Historically speaking, GW’s COVID response has been an all-or-nothing approach. We’ve shifted from full-time masking and routine PCR testing last September to what seems to be a minimal response today.

Even with an uptick in cases, we’re equipped to deal with the virus and carry on with our new normal. Let’s not catastrophize about COVID, but we shouldn’t be blissfully ignorant about the virus, either. If we want to enjoy a post-pandemic world, we’re going to have to be a little vigilant.

The editorial board consists of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s staff editorial was written by Editorials Assistant Paige Baratta and Opinions Editor Ethan Benn based on discussions with Contributing Culture Editor Jenna Baer, Contributing Social Media Director Anaya Bhatt, Contributing Opinions Editor Riley Goodfellow and Social Media Director Ethan Valliath.

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