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Rice is not a bubble free of COVID-19, students must remain vigilant

By Thresher Editorial Board     9/29/20 10:08pm

At the beginning of the semester, we wrote about our skepticism with the administration’s reopening plan. The plan has proven to be successful so far — we have been able to keep our COVID-19 case count low, especially in comparison to many other universities across the country. Our case numbers may reflect the administration’s thorough planning, but they also reflect the caution and cooperation that everyone on campus has exercised  over the past six weeks. Things seem to be going well, so we implore everyone at Rice: don’t let up now.

Between Sept. 8 and Sept. 14, Rice had its first week since starting classes this semester without a single positive test. This was fantastic news, and everyone who played a part in that should be proud, but in no way does that mean we can begin to relax when it comes to following physical distancing protocols. As we all know, that is not how COVID-19 works. The numbers prove it: Between Sept. 15 and Sept. 25, 11 people tested positive.

This slight increase in cases is still low, and we have no way of knowing whether these new infections are a result of individuals relaxing their own safety protocols due to low case numbers. However, we think it is worth reminding everyone, and ourselves, that the pandemic is still a very real threat, especially when certain safety protocols around us are lifted. On Sept. 17, Dean of Undergraduates Bridget Gorman announced that she is partially lifting the ban on alcohol consumption on campus by allowing colleges to host public, outdoor events with alcohol service. As students begin to attend such events, it is imperative that we remember that other safety protocols — such as a maximum of 50 people allowed at an event, mandatory mask-wearing and a required six feet of distance between people — have not been lifted.

These safety protocols are only mandatory within the confines of Rice’s campus. Beyond 6100 Main St., Texas Governor Greg Abbott has continued to loosen restrictions for the state, recently allowing retail stores, restaurants, office buildings and more to expand from 50 to 75 percent capacity. Students must account for how higher capacity translates to higher risk for the same activity and adjust our behavior accordingly. As Rice students inevitably engage with the greater Houston area, we must keep not only the safety of the Rice community, but the safety of Houstonians at the forefront of our minds. We have the privilege of weekly testing and readily available isolation housing on the Rice campus, but the same can not be said for the rest of Houston. Houston might be in much better shape than it was over the summer, but COVID-19 is still alive and well in the city, and the potentially irresponsible actions of Rice students could have effects that ripple well beyond our campus. In other words, just because you can eat indoors at a restaurant doesn’t mean you should.

All of us must hold both ourselves and our peers accountable when it comes to following safety protocols and the Culture of Care Agreement. Chief Justices and Public Health Ambassadors should not be the only students who confront violators or serve as public health role models. Irresponsible actions will undoubtedly put an in-person spring semester in jeopardy, but more importantly place a dangerous burden on the Houston community and on those who do not have an elite university looking after them.

 Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Rishab Ramapriyan, Ivanka Perez, Amy Qin, Elizabeth Hergert, Ella Feldman, Katelyn Landry, Rynd Morgan, Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Simona Matovic and Tina Liu.  

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