According to NMU’s Safe on Campus Dashboard, Winter 2022 COVID-19 cases are already going to pass the Fall 2021 total cases, with 129 total semester cases compared to 137 cases in Fall 2021. We aren’t even two weeks in.
Meanwhile, the Michigan Safe Start Map currently classifies Marquette County (and the entire U.P.) as high risk. The CDC warns that the Omicron variant, currently the primary variant of COVID-19 being passed among people in the United States, likely spreads more easily than previous variants.
In light of these facts, NMU’s decision to return to in-person classes was premature and unwise. With the new Omicron variant spreading so quickly and people catching COVID-19 a lot faster than in previous semesters, it’s not smart to have everyone together again after being away for a month—especially since we all didn’t stay in the same area over break. NMU should have remained online until we got a good feel as to how the rest of the semester could go.
The NMU administration is constantly talking about how we need to be safe, but in classrooms there is no social distancing, and other precautions have been done away with. Yes, we have better masks, but we are still cramped in classrooms together. If one person gets sick, everyone around them will also get sick.
With the number of cases we have had this semester compared to last semester, it seems that going back to class in person is way more risky than NMU has made it seem. Yes, if you are vaccinated and have a decent immune system, you are less likely to have a severe case of COVID-19 and it should pass fairly quickly. But treating COVID-19 as if it is something we need to get over with and not treat seriously is damaging to all those around us who are immunocompromised or who have preexisting conditions, especially a number of our professors. It just doesn’t seem safe and worth the risk to continue in-person classes, even with masks.
The selfish part of us might be glad to go to class instead of having Zoom class after Zoom class. Many of us were upset at the email from NMU that classes were going to be off for those two days and in-person because of the masks not arriving on time, increased cases, etc. However, as COVID-19 cases are mounting, the prospect of online classes becomes that much more comforting. We might really hate the idea of going back to virtual classes, but there’s no question that it’s the safer move when this variant doesn’t seem to be slowing down.
Many of us were surprised and angry that NMU put the online class fee back in place this semester. They dropped it for previous semesters and brought it back for this semester when arguably, this is the semester where we should have more online class options.
Do online classes suck? Yes. Does mental health suffer a lot because of online classes? Yes. But our mental health also suffers when we are in a room of 100 plus people for a lecture and we’re on edge worrying that someone around us will have COVID-19. These are also not conductive learning conditions.
At the very least, students and professors should be more supported in their decisions to take/host online classes for the physical and mental wellbeing of all students and faculty. This would mean refunding the virtual class fee for the semester.
In the meantime, we urge our peers to continue masking up in public, as well as taking further precautions such as washing hands, staying home when sick, and limiting your circle of friends. People are tired of being cautious. It’s been two years of this and it’s only going to continue to cycle again and again if we don’t take COVID-19 seriously. We hope everyone remains committed to safety, and let’s get through this together in whatever format is chosen for the remainder of the semester.