EDITORIAL BOARD: The 5Cs need to find a COVID policy that is here for all of us

A group of students wearing masks stand in a circle talking
The reduction of the 5Cs’ COVID-19 dashboards is an unnecessary cut to make, writes the Editorial Board, and denies community members access to vital information. (Xiao Jiang • The Student Life)

With classes back in session, friendships rekindled after a summer apart and cross-campus dining reopened, it’s great to be back in Claremont. There’s another part of college life that also made a return with students this fall, however — or rather, never left in the first place. 

That would be the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. While another summer came and went, the risk COVID-19 continues to pose to students, faculty and staff didn’t go anywhere — which is why the significant reduction of the 5Cs’ COVID-19 dashboards is a corner they didn’t have to cut.

Several members of the 5Cs have grown accustomed to checking the status of case counts on the campuses to determine which activities they feel comfortable participating in. However, in an email earlier this week, Harvey Mudd College notified students that it would no longer update its public COVID-19 dashboard and would instead send weekly updates via email — making it harder to access. Scripps College hasn’t updated their dashboard since May 13, and, when asked to provide case numbers, they referred TSL to Student Health Services, who declined to share internal data.

One of the things we do best at TSL is serving as the central source of news for all the 5Cs — a job we can no longer do when those holding data aren’t willing to share what they know.

With the reinstatement of cross-campus dining and the full activity of 5C clubs and groups since the beginning of the semester, cross-campus activity is the busiest it’s been in the past two years. As exciting as it is to fully engage with our peers across the consortium, it makes no sense to restrict access to COVID-19 case counts now. 

Yes, testing will be widely optional, but that’s no reason not to report the results of the tests that are taken. As we have all come to know, COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, and community members deserve to know what’s happening in their spaces so they can make informed decisions.

While community spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County continues to fluctuate, based on CDC guidelines, the positivity rate continues to stay high which suggests current cases may be underreported. Summer surges nearly prompted Los Angeles County to reinstate a universal mask mandate, so there’s no reason to believe we won’t see similar trends reemerge this fall.

With the dashboards, we could anticipate a surge before it escalates out of reach. Without them, it’s hard to preemptively take action that could prevent more from contracting the virus — all the reason to reinstate weekly updated dashboards.

Of course, this isn’t to say that life at the 5Cs should hit the pause button again. You’d be alone if you said you enjoyed spitting in a test tube; but, if we’re cutting COVID-19 mitigation efforts, we should be making up for them somewhere else. 

Weekly testing can be incredibly helpful, but it’s not the end-all, be-all of tracking cases; cutting out weekly PCR testing doesn’t mean that we have to give up on tracking the virus entirely. 

It looks like the colleges bolstering communication and increasing transparency. Cross-campus dining and club activities mean that our campuses are heavily intertwined, so it’s more important than ever that we ensure everyone on all the campuses has access to the information they deserve — and that starts by bringing back the COVID-19 dashboards.

It also looks like the colleges directly acknowledging their immunocompromised students in their policies. Reduced COVID-19 transmission does not equal no COVID-19 transmission, and it’s the responsibility of the schools to protect all their students — and that starts by encouraging masking and ensuring students who need it have access to virtual class options

We all belong at these schools, and especially when it comes to COVID-19, they need to make sure they are supporting all of us in return.

TSL’s editorial board is comprised of its editor-in-chief and two managing editors and does not necessarily represent the views of other TSL staff members. Larkin Barnard-Bahn reported on the fall COVID-19 policies this week and recused herself from this editorial.

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