Do you still wear a mask whilst you’re on campus? Have you been waiting with bated breath for your second booster? Braved COVID? More than once? Do you remember the rigid rules of 2020?
When COVID-19 had its first major uptake in 2020, schools and universities globally rushed to shift to online learning. Campuses were barren, and students discovered the joy of playing classes at twice the speed. If you had to go into university, you were forced to accessorise with a mask. Then, when vaccines were finally accessible, show concrete proof to Curtin that you were up to date. That was when daily cases in WA were barely grazing double digits. In 2022, COVID is more rampant in the state than it’s ever been. I’m certain that I’m not the only one who has noticed it—people have been reporting positive RATs like never before.
Before July and early August of this year, I could count the number of people I knew who’d had COVID on one hand. Now, I’d need three more to even begin to manage it. Coronavirus is still very much a factor in our lives. If you’re vaccinated, young, and not immunocompromised, there is a very high likelihood that your symptoms will be manageable.
When I had COVID, just over a week ago, it was almost indistinguishable from a strong flu. Coughing, major fatigue, a fever, and runny nose—all hallmarks of classic Winter viruses. I’m out of quarantine now, and though I was still testing positive after my mandatory 7 days, you might be thinking that COVID is no longer something of concern. We’re past it—let’s move on. If you fall into that young, healthy, fully vaccinated category like I do, you may be right. Unfortunately, not everyone does—and those of us who have the freedom to pretend coronavirus is a thing of the past don’t suddenly give up being spreaders. We all know people close to us who face higher risks in the eventuality they are infected.
You’re probably aware by now that Curtin has revoked their Vaccination Policy. Just like how masks are no longer mandatory on campus, there is now no obligation for anyone to provide evidence of their vaccination status. Unless the state government requires it, totally unvaccinated people—who are at a higher risk of severe infection—are free to gather on campus, with thousands of other students—most of whom lead active social lives and interact with countless non-Curtin people who could pass the virus on to them.
In their announcement, Curtin gave their rationale for rescinding its requirements. “The main reason for the decision is that there is now reliable evidence from government sources that COVID-19 vaccinations give less protection against infection and transmission of Omicron and its subvariants than it did in respect of previous variants of the virus, and that the protection against infection and transmission that it does give wanes relatively quickly over time.”
“We also know that with the Policy in place for the first part of the year, Curtin has very high vaccination rates (including of first boosters), so most of our community have strong protection against severe illness.”
For most of the campus, masks are also still optional. “Curtin encourages students and staff to wear masks, particularly in situations where physical distancing is not practical.”
In their closing statement, Curtin encourages the Curtin community to not see this as a reason to avoid vaccinating themselves. “…strong evidence remains that vaccinations are safe and effective and provide good protection against severe illness from COVID-19. Curtin strongly encourages you to remain up to date with vaccinations, including boosters when they become available.”
Though this does increase the risk on campus—even by a small amount for the average, vaccinated person—Curtin does have measures in place to limit the impacts of coronavirus on staff and students. These include increased ventilation, more regular cleaning of commonly touched surfaces, encouraging unwell people to stay home, obeying hygiene protocols (including limiting physical contact, regularly washing hands, covering your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and cleaning common areas like classrooms between use), and encouraging physical distancing.
Just because it’s no longer an obligation, does not mean you should no longer do it. I encourage you—get vaccinated if you have not, and keep up to date if you have. Wear a mask. Follow social distancing guidelines and stay home if you’re not feeling well. Though the risk may seem small to you, you never know who you might spread something to. Not everyone will face COVID-19 like it’s a cold, and everyone has people close to them who coronavirus could send to the ICU. With 2022 providing the highest rates of infection we’ve seen yet, the risk for them is greater than it’s ever been.