Editorial—With COVID-19 cases up, don’t let the weather lower your precautions

no+distance

Sam Rush/NW

North Wind Staff

As the weather is warming, and people start feeling the freedom to go out in short sleeves, hammock on campus and gather with friends, it is especially important to remain conscious of COVID-19 safety.

Marquette County is currently experiencing a spike in cases of COVID-19 and hospitalizations related to the virus. We’ve charted a 72% increase in cases since two weeks ago, according to data collected by the New York Times. This spike is also reflected in the number of cases on campus. There are currently 10 active off-campus cases, eight active on-campus cases and one staff case, according to the Safe on Campus Dashboard. In quarantine, 12 beds are occupied as of April 6.

Although the current spike is not yet as large as the spike which occurred in November which forced NMU to shut down in-person instruction for the end of the fall semester, the current trend could head in that direction. The New York Times classifies Marquette County residents at a very high risk of exposure to the virus.

There are currently two variants of COVID-19 which have been documented in Michigan, and specifically in the Upper Peninsula. According to a press release from the Marquette County Health Department on March 9, the first case of the B.1.351 variant was detected in Jackson, Michigan on March 8.

Both of these variants are characterized by higher transmission rates than the version of COVID-19 we all know and hate. This means the precautions we take against COVID-19 (washing hands, wearing masks, physical distancing, limiting outings) are still crucial to prevent the spread of these more contagious strains.

The New York Times reports that 27% of Marquette County residents are fully vaccinated against COVID-19. This is excellent, and we hope the numbers of vaccinated community members and students keep rising. Students are now eligible to receive vaccines and are encouraged to register for the vaccine through the Marquette County Health Department.

Even with the increasing prevalence of the vaccination, precautions are still necessary. Although once a person is vaccinated, they are able to visit with more people without as much risk of transmission, the vaccine is not a magical cure-all for this pandemic. It is science, and there are still many things that remain unknown. The vaccination greatly reduces the risk of contracting the virus but does not eliminate the risk. It is not known how effective the vaccine is at preventing the virus variants, according to the CDC. It is important to maintain realistic expectations about the vaccine and continue practicing preventative measures to protect others.

We’ve noticed that with the warming weather, many peers and community members have been walking the campus improperly masked. Some wear masks over their mouths but not their noses. This does nothing to prevent transmission of the virus. It is useless.

On some nice spring days, we’ve noticed lines of people waiting outside bars to get in, packed like sardines. We also see groups of people walking close together outdoors without masks. The temptation to give up on safety precautions is strong. We’re all exhausted from the fear, the isolation, and the winter. The coming of spring seems like a relief and we want to throw off the restrictions. But those restrictions are in place to keep people from dying. 

If the current trend with cases continues, NMU may end up having to shut down in-person classes at the end of the semester once again. We have some control over how much the virus spikes in the coming weeks. We ask our peers to be prudent.

Editor’s Note: The North Wind is committed to offering a free and open public forum of ideas, publishing a wide range of viewpoints to accurately represent the NMU student body. This is an editorial, written by the North Wind Editorial Board in its entirety. It reflects the majority views of the individuals who make up the editorial staff of the North Wind. It is the policy of the Editorial Board not to endorse candidates for any political office, in order to avoid aligning this public forum with particular political organizations.