Mon. May 16th, 2022

There is no evidence that the Delta variant of COVID-19 is deadlier than previous strains for vaccinated individuals. The United Kingdom has already recovered from their Delta case-spike and, while cases in the UK increased drastically, even among vaccinated individuals, deaths remain disproportionately rare. An increasing number of reports in the United States show the same finding. The vaccines also remain extraordinarily efficacious at preventing hospitalizations. Increases in absolute numbers of hospitalizations are due to a higher rate of spread, and not due to more severe symptoms caused by the Delta variant. The CDC’s website states, “studies indicate that the vaccines used in the United States work well against the Delta variant, particularly in preventing severe disease and hospitalization. Overall, if there are more infections with SARS-CoV-2 [the umbrella term for covid variants], there will be more vaccine breakthrough infections. However, the risk of infection, hospitalization and death are all much lower in vaccinated people compared to unvaccinated people.” 


The New York Times published a summary of evidence last week, explaining that “if Delta were significantly more severe, you’d expect to see some signs that hospitalizations or deaths were rising faster than new cases. Those signs are hard to find.” They reference their own data tracking on the UK, writing that “The share of Covid cases leading to hospitalization seems to have held steady or even declined in recent months. That’s true in Britain, including among children too young to be vaccinated.” The research supporting these findings have been unfolding for some time. The takeaway from the data available is that covid, including the Delta variant, poses almost no danger to vaccinated individuals. Among university-aged vaccinated people, the danger is even lower. Everyone in the United States has had the opportunity to be vaccinated except for young children. As explained above, there is no evidence that the Delta variant makes children any sicker than the original strain. The most recent weekly report from Public Health England shows that children are so resilient that even unvaccinated children have a lower risk of death than fully vaccinated adults of any age group. According to the university’s new covid tracking dashboard, 37% of students do not report being fully or partially vaccinated. By making their choice, they accept the risk that choice represents as is the case for all decisions. Their choice, however, carries no risk for those of us who have been vaccinated or for children who cannot be vaccinated.  


Many people are not aware of any of these facts, potentially because their news sources have financial interests in keeping them afraid, and therefore avoid accurate reporting on covid.  Accurate reporting would inform people that life as it was before the pandemic may resume for the vast majority of the population. Discerning people are capable of seeing past the noise created by the often attention-hungry media and display the capacity to make their own assessments of the data. You would expect to find these sorts of people at universities, occupied in positions of supposed intellectual advancement. It is not obvious that this is the case at West Chester University, judging by the behavior of the university leadership in the face of the available evidence. This institution has made the decision to require mask-wearing this fall for fully vaccinated students and faculty. The official policy, as stated on the university’s website is that “All faculty, staff, students, and visitors, regardless of vaccination status, are required to wear a mask which covers their nose and mouth when indoors.”  


This decision represents an insult to the deepest values embedded in the foundations of universities and of education in general. We have been safely inoculated against a once-in-a-generation pandemic, with an extremely efficacious vaccine developed at a speed without historic parallel. We have witnessed the most impressive technological miracle since humans walked on the surface of the moon. But we are being told to act as if we are completely oblivious to all of that. We are being asked to ignore all indications of the sheer genius of humanity and inhibit any faith we might have had in the amazing power of our own accomplishments. Instead we are told to wear what is, by this point, a symbol of irrational and pathological fear. To my way of thinking, it is therefore not unreasonable to hypothesize that post-vaccination masking is a symptom of participation in mass psychosis. But it is also, for me, a perfectly expected and logical product of the decadent system of higher education in the United States. It has ceased being surprising every time institutions of higher learning continue to extinguish their own credibility and respectability in order to give off the appearance of virtue.  


Is it possible that, when authorities give orders without empirical support, it is because they expect unquestioning obedience as long as they make sure to say the words “experts inform us” or “leading authorities agree?” Is it because they assume individuals have a higher allegiance to social and political pressures than to their own powers of reasoning? Most frighteningly of all, is it because they assume we trust ourselves less than we trust them? Unfortunately, I think authorities are correct in all of these assumptions with an unsettlingly high-frequency.


Brady Barley is a first-year student in WCU’s master’s program in general psychology. 

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