Over the summer, Ole Miss students received two very different emails addressing what COVID protocols for the upcoming Fall semester will look like. On June 24, the Interim Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs sent an email to students detailing the University’s Fall 2021 COVID-19 protocols. Under these protocols, vaccinated students didn’t have to wear masks, social distance or quarantine if they were exposed to COVID-19 but remained asymptomatic. However, on August 4, a new email was sent from Chancellor Glenn Boyce that said because of the Delta variant, there would now be a temporary indoor mask mandate for everyone, regardless of vaccination status.
I felt, and I assume other students did too, shocked by this sudden change to what my semester was going to look like. Despite my shock, I understood that the necessity of requiring masks outweighed the disruption it would cause.
While UM is encouraging the vaccine, they are not mandating it despite both vaccine requirements at many other colleges across the country and the fact that IHL does not prohibit it. Even though UM may be refusing to require the vaccine, it still has the responsibility to mandate everyone, regardless of vaccination status, to wear masks. It is estimated that a person infected with the Delta strain will infect 1-1.5 more people on average than they would if they had the original strain.
I understand people that want to have a normal school year. I understand that the University wants to have a normal year. I spent my Freshman year in a COVID-regulated school year and want to have my first real college experience, one without Zoom, masks and social distancing. I also experienced firsthand how exciting it was to have the real, pre-COVID, world given back to me, only for it to suddenly be taken away again. Being back home for the summer in New Orleans, I was able to have roughly one month of normality where restaurants were back at full capacity and masks were no longer required. During this month, I believed, perhaps naively, that COVID was now behind us, and I was very much taken aback when the Delta variant emerged and mask mandates started popping up again.
My point from all of this is I understand how frustrating it is to have freedom from COVID at the tip of everyone’s fingertips, only for it to be suddenly ripped away by the Delta variant. What is more important than my wants, other people’s wants or even the school’s wants, however, are the health and wellbeing of the Ole Miss community. The solution to this disappointment is not to foolishly ignore it and keep using an outdated protocol. Ole Miss must continue to adapt to the current state of the nation and keep changing protocol as needed, despite the frustration it might cause to save student’s lives and their on-campus college experience. At the end of the day, wearing masks is a small price to pay in order to have all in-person classes.
Abigail Myers is a sophomore majoring in English and psychology from New Orleans, Louisiana.