Tufts’ campus has seen a substantial rise in cases of COVID-19 in recent weeks. In an email sent to the community on Nov. 15, Tufts established increased restrictions for students studying in person in response to a concerning number of new cases and close contacts. Considering the difficulty of remote learning and lack of means to decompress, the prevailing sense of exhaustion among Tufts students is not surprising; however, it is still critical that we remain vigilant in following university protocols by wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding gatherings. By neglecting these measures, we risk jeopardizing the future of on-campus operations — in the spring semester and beyond.
Tufts has done a commendable job limiting the spread of COVID-19 on our campus. Entering the semester, the university implemented semiweekly testing of students, staff and faculty — which was recently increased to testing every other day — and mandated campuswide social distancing requirements. These measures are, in part, what have allowed many Tufts students to continue their academic journeys on campus, and they should be acknowledged. However, these institutional measures are nothing without the adherence of members of the Tufts community. Receiving negative tests or following guidelines only when convenient does not absolve students of their responsibility to protect themselves and others within the Tufts community.
As Tufts pointed out in recent emails, there has been a considerable increase in the number of individuals who have been identified as close contacts. This demonstrates that students may not be entirely adhering to the protocols necessary to contain the spread of COVID-19. While the responsibility to keep our campus safe jointly falls upon the university and community members, it is evident that some students are not completely fulfilling their end of the bargain.
The recent increase in cases could potentially be explained by a collective desire to revert to a sense of normalcy. Some students may also feel a sense of false security in the testing system, using negative tests as an excuse to disregard certain guidelines. But this mentality could potentially endanger the rest of our community as well as jeopardize our ability to stay on campus in the future. While frequent testing has the potential to limit the spread of COVID-19, it does not provide protection from the spread of the virus. Negative tests reflect only a moment in time; it is possible to be subjected to COVID-19 between the time a test is taken and the time the results are received, or to have contracted the virus but still receive a false negative. No matter how tired or falsely comforted by university precautions we may be, we all must continue to hold ourselves to the utmost standard of caution.
As we enter our final weeks on campus, Tufts students and community members must uphold university guidelines, both in campus spaces and behind closed doors. This includes wearing masks, washing our hands, maintaining a physical distance from all individuals other than roommates and only leaving places of residence when necessary. The responsibility to protect ourselves and our community falls upon each and every one of us.
These responsibilities apply well beyond keeping our own campus safe. As many of us travel home in the coming weeks, we run the risk of exposing communities beyond Tufts to COVID-19, both across the country and the world. Even when the semester ends and campus closes, it will be important to continue to diligently follow COVID-19 guidelines and carry on this mission to prioritize the health and well-being of our communities.