Another Week, Another Test
COVID silliness on campus
My three adult children in college are endlessly tested for COVID. In fact, at least two of the three have to be tested weekly or their ID cards won’t allow them to enter buildings. While in class, they have to wear masks and can be censured for taking down their masks to drink; drinks not allowed.
Given that Omicron is literally everywhere, and overall is far less likely to cause death or hospitalization than prior variants, it seems we should dispense with the madness. But college administrators and professors, ever in love with new regulations, continue to tighten rules in the vain hope of eradicating an already endemic virus.
Here are a couple more examples of university responses to COVID.
But far worse than even the rules is the way this is impacting students’ anxiety levels. What I see among young people is an obsession with COVID. Even when vaccinated, the slightest sniffle or sore throat prompts a fear of the Vid. (Mind you, we all get this symptoms in Fall and Winter.) This is followed by an immediate withdrawal from activities and a search for the nearest university sanctioned test site or for a pharmacy in which to purchase a home COVID test.
The result may take a few hours or a couple of days. Frequently it is negative, sometimes it is not. But when it is positive, in a young, healthy, vaccinated student who lives and studies with young, healthy, vaccinated students, I’m not sure why it matters. There’s no stopping this virus. It’ in the population and will remain here. I expect yearly vaccines like the flu vaccine. And I expect us to simply navigate it as humans have always learned to live with their viral companions. Students should simply go on with their lives and universities should allow them to do so.
By way of counterpoint, hospital secretaries, nurses and physicians who were told they had to be vaccinated against COVID are now getting Omicron and once positive, are told to come to work anyway due to staffing shortages. Who is more likely to spread the disease to the vulnerable? Medical staff or college students? The world is upside down, it seems.
When one writes about COVID these days, a disclaimer is always indicated. I believe that COVID, in some people, is a very dangerous disease. As an emergency physician I have seen the devastation first hand. However, in young, healthy people it generally is not.
What I find more troubling than Omicron is the way this is impacting young people and particularly college and college-aged students.
It has created a culture of fear and anxiety which may shape many of their lives for years going forward. This generation of young men and women are already afflicted with remarkable degrees of anxiety and depression. The etiologies are still being investigated. But in years past, this would have been a group that were more likely to take risks and less likely to be worried about adverse health outcomes. They would have been more hopeful and less afflicted with fear for the future.
Now, these symptoms are worsened by our response to COVID.
But wait, there’s more! The unintended consequences of policy extend beyond the classroom. In the hospitals where I work, COVID tests are in short supply. Frequently we have to tell patients that we can’t test them unless they’re seriously ill and being admitted; last week we were even out of the send-out tests. We urged them to seek testing elsewhere.
In other words, colleges are testing the healthy weekly, knowing (as smart professors should) that the students are at low risk and mostly vaccinated. And they should also know that this puts them, the faculty, at much lower risk. And yet they continue to insist on more and more testing while we in healthcare can’t get tests for those who actually come to the hospital!
It’s time for colleges to stop the foolishness. And for everyone to take a deep breath and chill out. Is COVID dangerous? Sure, for some people. And those people deserve our protection and concern. But for most people it isn’t. Get your vaccine and move on in life.
And colleges, ‘leave them kids alone.’