COVID-19 is real, we need transparency, enforcement

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Camille Zanders, Senior Staff Reporter/Writer

Before students returned to campus, President Quinton T. Ross Jr., Ed.D., released a heartfelt message along with the Fall 2021 ASU Reopening Guide, where he reiterates the importance of masks, social distancing, hand-washing, and all other minor actions that could prevent virus transmission. He concludes his message with the statement, “Stay Aware, Stay Safe and Stay Hornet Strong!”
But how are we to do that in this climate?
According to The New York Times, there have been 212 million cases of COVID-19 recorded worldwide, leading to 4.43 million deaths. The United States leads all other nations in recorded cases and deaths, with 37.8 million infected and over 628,000 deceased. The state of Alabama has accounted for approximately 663,000 positive cases resulting in over 12,000 deaths. Locally focused, Montgomery County has logged almost 29,000 positive cases and approximately 650 deaths, the third most COVID-19 related fatalities in the state of Alabama.
While the introduction of the Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines allowed for a glimmer of hope, the public’s reluctance of them dimmed the light at the end of the tunnel. At 36.3%, Alabama comes in last place regarding fully vaccinated residents compared to all other U.S. states.
Along with the refusal of vaccines, the emergence of virus variants has resulted in a stark increase of positive cases within Alabama, and more specifically, Montgomery County. Alabama Public Health has announced that the Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, and Lambda strains of COVID-19 have all been recorded in the state. Though all variants have their quirks, the Delta reigns most dangerous as it accounts for over 80% of cases statewide and attacks the immune system more aggressively.
As reported by WFSA, “Between Aug. 1-12 of 2020, Alabama had 1,356 reports of COVID-19 in those ages 5-17. During that same period in 2021, however, reports among the same age range were 350% higher at 6,181 cases.”
Though those statistics only refer to pediatrics, young adults are not at all free from infection. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the ages ranging from 18 – 49 are the most affected by the Delta variant. This being apparent in our own Montgomery County as COVID-19 cases soar upon the return of students to Alabama State University.
Currently going through the second-largest surge of cases yet, Montgomery County has a seven-day average of 174 new daily cases. Non coincidentally, the record high of 295 new positive cases were logged on August 15, the eve of the first day of classes for Hornet students.
With the number of impromptu events taking place, on-campus food service employees with masks under their noses, and students congregating in the union free of masks at all, it would be naive to believe that the Hornet’s Nest is COVID-19 free.
Interestingly, as positive cases in the area rise and more students become exposed, the university’s health services refuse to disclose COVID-19 related statistics. This seems odd compared to other institutions such as the University of Alabama, Alabama A & M University and Auburn University, which have their COVID-19 statistics openly on their websites. All this, yet the ASU community is only told to be safe, aware, and strong. How can we be any of those with such a lack of administrative support?
Additionally, the struggle against the variants has led to a state of emergency in Alabama hospitals and medical centers, as there are currently no ICU beds left for use in the entire state.
Though students have every right to be excited about their return to campus, they should also be cautious. While sporting events, concerts, and parties are undeniably fun, they are not worth a working pair of lungs. Please Hornets, mask up and keep distance. And I personally ask, “Stay (more) Aware, Stay Safe(r) and Stay (Healthy and) Strong!”