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By Kerry McDonald *
This article is excerpted from LiberatED, a weekly email newsletter where FEE Senior Education Fellow Kerry McDonald brings you news and analysis on current education and parenting topics. Click here to sign up.
The Omicron surge of the coronavirus shows signs of cresting in the US and around the world, but COVID restrictions on many college campuses are tightening as the spring semester begins.
For example, Johns Hopkins University (JHU) in Baltimore just released its “Covid-safe” spring semester plan for students as they return to campus on January 24th. Here are a few highlights:
- Like many colleges, JHU is mandating a COVID booster for all students, in addition to its previous two-shot COVID vaccine mandate along with a mandatory seasonal influenza vaccination.
- Students must remain masked, but a simple cloth or surgical mask will no longer cut it. They now need to wear an N95 or KN95 mask, or two masks (cloth and surgical).
- All students must now be tested for COVID twice weekly instead of weekly.
- No eating together in dining halls.
- Ongoing contact tracing and quarantining for positive cases.
Remember, all of the students on this campus are fully vaccinated and boosted, and they still must abide by these additional restrictions.
And they pay over $75,000 in annual tuition, fees, and room and board for this experience.
Colleges and universities across the country are adopting similar practices. Many are requiring COVID-19 boosters for students this semester, while others are adopting stricter masking policies that demand N95 or KN95 masks or double masking on campus.
Dr. Marty Makary, a professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and a critic of draconian COVID policies, wrote earlier this month about virus plans on many college campuses. “Universities are supposed to be bastions of critical thinking, reason and logic,” he said. “But the Covid policies they have adopted—policies that have derailed two years of students’ education and threaten to upend the upcoming spring semester—have exposed them as nonsensical, anti-scientific and often downright cruel.”
Some students have simply had enough. They are withdrawing from tightly-controlled campuses and transferring to colleges that reject coercion and prioritize normalcy.
There are early signs of positive change. Thousands of university students at Stanford, Cornell, and George Mason are pushing back against booster mandates, while other colleges indicate that they are moving from “containment to management” of the virus.
According to The New York Times on Sunday: “As the Omicron surge spreads across the country, sending Covid-19 case counts to new heights and disrupting daily life, some universities are preparing for a new phase of the pandemic — one that acknowledges that the virus is here to stay and requires a rethinking of how to handle life on campus.”
For the sake of the students, and their parents’ pocketbooks, let’s hope this “rethinking” happens swiftly.
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