Letter to the editor: College should do the right thing and keep students away
As a Middlebury alum and current public health practitioner, I understand how difficult it is to make decisions that ensure the well-being of students, staff, and community.
From a public health standpoint, the college is following the recommendations set forth by the State, but from a behavioral standpoint, there is no way that you will be able to control what will inevitably be an unsafe situation for the entire community. Controlling the actions of students has always been difficult, even prior to the global pandemic. When has Middlebury successfully stopped students from breaking rules? Rule breaking is a key, and sometimes wonderful part of being both a teenager and a college student, but in this case, it will very likely result in outbreaks of COVID-19 on campus and in the wider community.
It is irresponsible for the college to believe that students will quarantine in their dorm rooms, will not congregate, and will not venture into town, and it is unreasonable for the college to put the health of the community in the hands of the students. For public health policymakers globally, it has been hard enough to convince the majority of people to wear masks, socially distance, and wash their hands. For the college to think that it will be any more successful is playing with fire.
The reason why Vermont has been so successful in its response to COVID-19 is because there is literally no other choice. Other states have rushed reopening, an action which has resulted in unnecessary loss of life and strains to the healthcare system. Vermont has an aging population, which is at high risk for severe COVID-19 disease. 28,000 people in Vermont are uninsured, meaning that if they get sick, the financial consequences of illness could be catastrophic. By cautiously reopening the state, Vermont has thus far protected those most at risk.
By remaining open, the school is risking more than the health of its community, it is risking the progress that has been made by the state of Vermont to curb this virus. A decision to shut down would not be out of cowardice, but would be the right thing to do for the entire community and the State.
Middlebury Class of 2013.5
M.Sc. Candidate, Health Policy, Planning and Finance
London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London School of Economics
and Political Science
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