In the past couple of weeks, UK, Germany, France and others are experiencing a new wave. The US should get ready

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‘Unfortunately, we have a mindset that the pandemic is over, which couldn’t be further than the truth.’ Photograph: Xinhua/REX/Shutterstock

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  1. And what is UMass doing to get prepared for the BA2 wave?

    Not enough — at least not yet….

    The hastily-released March 8 letter from the directors of the Center for Public Health Protections states “individuals or departments cannot create mask requirements separate from or more restrictive than university requirements” but some UMass administrators have interpreted this as a “gag order” — for example, faculty have been told that if they say to their students that, when meeting in the classroom or for office hours, proper masking is “expected” would violate this guidance because the verb “expect” would be interpreted as “required” because of the “unequal power relationship between faculty and students” — as if faculty would punish students with a bad grade if the in-class or in-office mask expectation were unmet!?

    C’mon, folks, that’s not cricket!!!

    The “punishment” we’re talking about here are not bad grades for students, but serious potential health consequences for everyone — students and faculty and staff alike, as well as their friends and families. We know the prompt effects of COVID infection, even in the fully-vaccinated boosted, can lead to serious illness, infection of others in the household (like unvaccinated infants and young children, the elderly, the immunocompromised…), hospitalization, intensive care, intubation, and even death (the actuaries have weighed in: the death rate for those over 60 has increased substantially enough for that the price of our term life insurance has risen comparably). And the long term effects (ranging from chronic inflammation and fatigue to “brain fog” — I’m not sure about writing long comments to The Indy 😉 ) remain very poorly understood, with some evidence that “breakthrough” infections among the vaccinated & boosted can also lead to “long” COVID making any reassurance that there are few sequelae from a mild infection ring hollow….

    Faculty have been bending over backwards for the past two years to help their students learn and give students the benefit of the doubt in these difficult times. In many cases faculty have done this on their own, without compensation for the significant expense of upgrading their home internet services, building a home Zoom studios, and so forth.

    Over the spring break I’ve been remotely participating in a math conference. The hours are challenging — all the pleasures of jet lag, with none of the cherry blossoms — because it’s in Japan, postponed from a summer 2020 workshop in Kyoto because the Japanese have been much more careful about COVID.
    While I personally prefer being in-person to remote-virtual whenever possible, I expect — that is, I hope — UMass would be at least as careful about the health of its faculty, staff and students as I’ve (remotely) witnessed elsewhere in other parts of the world over the past two years.

    The least UMass could do is restore the mask-requirements in crowded indoor spaces (like elevators, restrooms and classrooms – I never expected to utter those three words together – as well as lobbies, stairways and hallways through which we need to pass), and to clarify that faculty and staff can not merely expect but actually require visitors to our offices to properly mask.

    Short of that, let’s remember what some of us learned as kids: “cannot” is not the same as “may not”….

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