Every student at NC State has had to partake in several online modules about campus life and expectations before officially becoming a member of the Pack. Discussed in these modules were the instances of sexual assault, rape, drinking, unauthorized prescription drug use along with confronting racial and gender stereotypes with our peers and colleagues. The overlapping theme one could surmise from this would be that we all need to “Do the Right Thing” — even if it feels awkward, weird, or even outside one’s own comfort zone.
In my own personal application to attend NC State, I had to state my intentions of stepping up to do the right thing no matter the circumstance. And collectively, we need to demand that NC State does the right thing now when it comes to COVID-19.
To many of those following the news, we can see an oncoming wave of COVID-19, not unlike the pandemic that swept across the world in 1919. It was this second wave in 1919 that turned out to be much deadlier than the prior winter. All the signs are pointing that history is due to repeat itself. Sure, our knowledge about disease and viruses have grown in the last 100 years, and we even have a vaccine available!
However, due to reluctance or a miscellany of theories, many in the US have elected to not get the vaccine. This creates an unique opportunity that is already unfolding through breakthrough infections amongst the vaccinated. Our opportunity for herd immunity is gone as each genetic variation of the coronavirus continues to evolve.
Southern neighbors like Texas, Alabama and Florida are already experiencing surges due to unvaccinated COVID-19 patients. Mobile morgues have been summoned to deal with the influx. And a sad tragedy occurred when a Purple Heart veteran in Texas, suffering from an impacted gallstone, died as he was not able to find an available hospital bed for this easy, common lifesaving procedure. Stories such as these are likely to continue with increasing frequency as we deal with this second wave.
So how does this impact our campus, and our communities? Just this past week, WakeMed, Duke Raleigh Hospital and UNC Rex Healthcare held a conference stating that hospital beds are full and patients are currently getting backed up in emergency departments. The delta variant has been confirmed to display a higher viral load compared to the original wild type, and vaccines are having lesser efficacy in preventing spread of the pathogen. Additionally, our low student vaccination rate is a concern paired with NC State’s relaxed mask mandates and testing procedures; these problems will have dark consequences for our NC State community and the greater Raleigh area where students and faculty reside.
This winter will be difficult as we watch, read, or are personally impacted by community members who fall victim to COVID-19. Or, just as gruesome, to an easily remedied operation prevented by the lack of hospital beds — from a traffic accident, random injury or a gallstone. It could be one of our own Wolfpack: a student, a faculty or staff member, or other residents impacted in the greater Raleigh area. One death is not worth the delay any longer.
As a community centered on “Do the Right Thing,” we need to do the right thing now before it is too late. NC State must switch to online classes for the safety of our communities. Often, the right thing to do isn’t the easiest, or the most comfortable. But in our conscience, we know we will have made the right decision to protect and care for our communities as best we can during the pandemic.