Covid Around the Country: Successes and Failures

Sanna Walker, Deputy Editor, Sports & Wellness

       As we approach the six-month anniversary of restrictions due to COVID-19, the United States is still seeing record-high deaths across the country. With 6.5 million cases total as of September 13 and 196,000 deaths nationwide, what is it that we are still doing wrong, and how should we prepare for failure from school reopenings? Federal guidance concerning the coronavirus has been erratic, and there are almost no federal regulations around the virus. As a result, it is up to the states to regulate policies, but these have varied widely. 

Today, the highest risk states include North Dakota (averaging 260 new cases a day in the past week), Missouri (1,303 new cases a day), and Oklahoma (782 new cases a day). In addition to not requiring masks in public, North Dakota only limits large gatherings to 250 people, and no travel restrictions have been applied. Missouri, meanwhile, hasn’t declared a state of emergency, has no reopening plan, did not mandate school closure in March (schools closed on their own), has no travel restrictions, has no mask mandate, and has no restrictions on reopening. Similarly, Oklahoma has no limits to gathering sizes as long as people consider social distancing, has no mask mandate, and has no travel restrictions. 

Contrary to these three states, 34 others have a mask mandate in effect. Every state suffering from the most cases recently (including the three states listed above), however, don’t require masks to be worn in public. There is a consistent pattern. The states that downplay the risk of the pandemic and encourage rather than require their residents to wear masks experience COVID-19 at an entirely different scale than the states who implement restrictions and prioritize the safety of their citizens above all else. 

At the other end of the coronavirus policy spectrum is Vermont, with 1,677 total cases since January and four new cases a day this week. Vermont has established strict travel restrictions, requiring that any person that travels to the state for a “non-essential purpose must immediately self-quarantine for 14 days, except for visitors from certain counties in [Maine], [Rhode Island], [Massachusetts], [New Hampshire], [Connecticut] and [New York] with low infection rates.”  They have a mask mandate, as well as a comprehensive reopening plan for the fall. 

As school starts, it is very important to keep the safety of classmates, teachers, and family in mind when attending in-person activities. 

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), recently told Rhode Island Gov. Gina Raimondo, “Your responsibility doesn’t end at the schoolroom door, it’s throughout your entire existence. To say, ‘I want my child to be safe in school,’ or, ‘I want to be the teacher who feels safe in school,’ then when you go home you go inside and have a party with 30 of your best friends with no mask, that doesn’t make sense.” 

The Minnesota Department of Health reminds the public to wash their hands often, always wear a mask properly (there are instructional videos regarding this on the website), stay home when they can, and get tested if they have symptoms. 

Karina Torbenson, ‘21, said that “it’s very important this year that students follow school guidelines. And when you can safely do so, take advantage of the good weather to social distance and see friends outside.”

Above all else, the “primary consideration should always be the safety, health, and welfare of the children and teachers, and the families of both of those groups,” said Fauci. “We’ve done this for six months now thinking, my God, is this never going to end? It will end for sure, and it will end with a combination of maintaining the public health principles that the governor and I have been speaking about, together with my cautious optimism about a vaccine by the end of the year, beginning of next year,” he said. “We’ll get out of this, we’ll get out of it together. The more effort you put into keeping yourselves as green as you possibly can, the better it is.”