The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

Sophomore LHP Shane Sdao (38) reacts after a strikeout during Texas A&Ms game against Texas at Disch-Falk Field on Tuesday, March 5, 2024. (CJ Smith/The Battalion)
A Sunday salvage
May 12, 2024
The Northgate district right adjacent to the Texas A&M campus houses a street of bars and other restaurants.  
Programs look to combat drunk driving
Alexia Serrata, JOUR 203 contributor • May 10, 2024
Texas A&M infielder Ryan Targac (12) hits a walk-off single to run-rule Arkansas during Texas A&M’s game against Arkansas at Olsen Field on Saturday, May 18, 2024. (Chris Swann/The Battalion)
‘Every decision and choice I’ve made has led up to that moment’
Ian Curtis, Sports Writer • May 18, 2024

It started with a commotion in the Texas A&M baseball dugout.  With the No. 5 Aggies up 13-4 over No. 3 Arkansas with a runner on second...

Beekeeper Shelby Dittman scoops bees back into their hive during a visit on Friday, April 5, 2024. (Kyle Heise/The Battalion)
Bee-hind the scenes
Shalina Sabih, Sports Writer • May 1, 2024

The speakers turn on. Static clicks. And a voice reads “Your starting lineup for the Texas A&M Aggies is …” Spectators hear that...

Kennedy White, 19, sits for a portrait in the sweats she wore the night of her alleged assault inside the Y.M.C.A building that holds Texas A&M’s Title IX offices in College Station, Texas on Feb. 16, 2024 (Ishika Samant/The Battalion).
'I was terrified'
April 25, 2024
Scenes from 74
Scenes from '74
April 25, 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
Farewell from the graduating Battalion staff of 2024
The BattalionMay 4, 2024

Curbing COVID-19 with both hands tied


Despite a rise in delta variant COVID-19 cases across the Brazos Valley, Texas A&M University is set to return to operation at full capacity with the fall semester  beginning on Monday, Aug. 30. 

Even after dealing with COVID-19 for over a year, a quiet Aggieland still feels strange to me, filled with hollow halls and an infinite sea of unfilled seats. The emptiness of our campus makes me yearn for the start of school — for life to return to Texas A&M. However, as much as I would like for this coming fall to look like 2019 during my freshman year, we live in a seemingly dystopian world ravaged by a pandemic that shows no signs of slowing. And, A&M is not doing enough to protect its students and the Bryan-College Station community from this threat.
There are three main policies in effect for the fall semester. All students, faculty and staff must partake in regular, mandatory testing programs. Additionally, anyone exposed to, experiencing symptoms of or testing positive for COVID-19 is required to self-report and quarantine. Lastly, A&M is providing financial incentives to encourage Aggies to get vaccinated, but the vaccine — alongside masks — will not be required for the upcoming semester.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m just as excited as the next student to go to Hurricane Harry’s, “Whoop” at Ring Day and laugh whenever someone asks when Midnight Yell starts. However, when county officials estimate only 46 percent of Brazos County has been fully vaccinated and new reported cases have increased by 34 percent in the last two weeks, doing the bare minimum to prevent COVID-19 is downright irresponsible.
In A&M’s defense, Gov. Greg Abbott has made crafting safety guidelines harder than getting first deck tickets to the Alabama game in Kyle Field. An executive order signed on July 29 prohibits government entities from requiring face coverings or vaccines under emergency use authorization, rendering A&M’s two most effective policies toothless.
I can already hear outraged commenters smashing their keyboard to say how college kids aren’t in danger from COVID-19 and we should “buck up.” Plot twist — they’re only half right. The 18-29 demographic has lower hospitalization and mortality rates than older age groups. But, that argument misses the point of COVID-19 precautions.
College students are a prime vector for COVID-19, and Brazos County is particularly vulnerable with its low vaccination rates. Additionally, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported 99.5 percent of deaths between Feb. 8 and July 14 were from unvaccinated patients. Thus, we can’t afford to do nothing and pretend the pandemic is over. So, what rules should A&M adopt?
Masking continues to be the best first line of defense, preventing upward of 70 percent of infections if everyone wears them. A&M could join the collection of schools mandating masks against Abbott’s order since it isn’t being enforced. However, there would be no way to enforce their usage off campus, where most of COVID-19’s spread occurs with extracurriculars and social activities.
The best way to protect fellow Aggies and the community is to significantly increase vaccination rates among students, staff and faculty. The Texas A&M School of Public Health estimates between 20 and 25 percent of students have been vaccinated, but experts argue we need between 70 and 80 percent of the population inoculated to achieve herd immunity.
While the financial incentives are a good start, A&M should mandate vaccines as soon as possible. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines result in reduced hospitalization rates, severe symptoms and deaths. They have been rigorously tested, and experts across the board agree the numerous benefits outweigh the rare risks.
Pfizer’s vaccine is reportedly receiving full approval from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday, Aug. 23, although some FDA officials say the review process may take longer. Regardless, A&M should adopt mandatory vaccinations as soon as it is approved. Vaccine requirements aren’t new to Aggieland — freshmen must be inoculated against bacterial meningitis per state law. It shouldn’t be a stretch to include the COVID-19 vaccine given the disease’s virulency.
The number of deaths in Texas from COVID-19 is almost on par with casualties from the Vietnam War, and the total fatalities in the U.S. is tenfold. A&M needs to treat the situation like the crisis it is and take more responsibility for protecting its students. I’m ready to go back to in-person classes. I’m ready to yell my lungs off in a full Kyle Field. I’m ready to put the pandemic behind us.
Let’s see if A&M will help make it happen.

Caleb Powell is a biomedical engineering junior and the opinion editor for the Battalion.

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