Editorial | Campus COVID-19 confusion is not sustainable

Confusion is the newest pandemic to sweep the University. Following a triumphant return to in-person classes and activities, the reality of COVID-19 has returned to campus.

With scores of students moving once more into C-U, it should be no surprise that COVID-19 cases are increasing. However, the rate at which cases are currently dissipating — both reported and presently undetected — is shockingly swift.

What has not tempered this latest wave, likewise, is the uncertainty plaguing campus. Besides concerns for fake vaccination cards and difficulties receiving a test due to “long lines”  — as only four testing sites remain —, Illini are perplexed as to how/if the University is addressing the resurgence of COVID-19.

On Sept. 1, 240 new cases were reported in Champaign County. Similarly, the University’s rolling positivity rate is steadily approaching 1% — a statistic not observed since September 2020. The rate also has demonstrated an elevated consistency ranging between .6-1% never exhibited on campus — last fall featured a drastic, sudden high at 1.19% before relaxing into lower percentages.

A startling revelation already disclosed this semester, moreover, has been the number of breakthrough cases.

“It came as a huge surprise to me that I tested positive; I don’t even go to any bars or restaurants because I just don’t feel safe,” said Pouya Akbarzadeh, a senior, in The News-Gazette.

As reported by The News-Gazette, from the first day of classes through Aug. 31, 159 of 233 cases originated from those fully vaccinated. One prominent feature of this statistic, nevertheless, is that these numbers stem from those who voluntarily tested: an activity no longer required for the vaccinated.

It can be asserted that with the testing population consisting of the unvaccinated — therefore more likely to obtain the virus — the numbers are naturally skewed to a higher rate. However, this is not the narrative lived by Illini impaired by the immensely contagious Delta variant.

Over the previous two weeks, each Illini has encountered a COVID-19 befuddlement in some manner. Whether it be entering buildings where Safer Illinois is sporadically — or never — checked or beginning class with admonitions from professors over the potential reinstatement of online classes, dread-by-COVID-19 has never been more prevalent.

Furthermore, at a moment where testing should be emphasized — even if one is vaccinated — the option appears repulsive due to cramped conditions and cumbersome lines. Although the demand sharply decreased due to the University’s commendable vaccination rate, testing must be encouraged for all.

Without the data to comprehend COVID-19 on campus, Illini are left adrift.

If breakthrough cases become customary, will this be a risk the University is willing to carry? Will there be any major adjustments to in-person classes or activities? If one tests positive, where is the intended quarantine location?

This last summer should have yielded plenty of time for the administration to prepare for this scenario, yet the University lacks communication and strategy in resolving the present debacle.

This perplexity cannot last. As breakthrough cases run rampant, Illini restlessly await effective, transparent strategies. 

Progress cannot be made until testing is encouraged for both the vaccinated and unvaccinated. Subsequently, the University must reevaluate if large in-person activities like sporting events are intensifying cases.

Nonetheless, the administration ought to assess the risks and determine if it is tolerable to continually permit breakthrough cases or judge that, with the imperative information, revisions are applicable. For the health and safety of Illini and the C-U community, the University must prioritize an alteration.

[email protected]