College Seemingly Abandons COVID Mitigation Efforts

I started school at Oberlin last fall when there were signs all over campus that said, “masks required outdoors.” I was initially surprised because this was above and beyond CDC guidance at that time — in general, outdoor mask wearing was not necessary. Now, I’ll admit I was a bit annoyed by such a policy. Carrying heavy boxes from my car and up the stairs while wearing a KN95 mask was not the most enjoyable experience, but at least it was an indication to me that the college I was attending truly cared about the health and safety of its students. I do believe at times those policies were over the top, whether that be making all dining locations grab and go or the outdoor mask mandate, but I knew I’d rather be at an institution that went above and beyond recommended measures than one that was being cavalier. 

However, as time went on, Oberlin’s image as an institution devoted to the health and safety of its students quickly disappeared. For one, as the Review reported Aug. 13, 2021, the school would no longer recommend vaccinated individuals to get tested if exposed, so long as they were not displaying symptoms. For an institution that claimed to be going “above and beyond” CDC recommendations, this was a clear departure, as the CDC was clear that vaccinated individuals can absolutely contract COVID-19 and be asymptomatic carriers, and should thus be tested when exposed. The College’s masking policy also faltered during a brief period when masks were not required in any athletic buildings. I can understand the option of removing masks while actively working out or practicing a sport, but why the whole building? Walking down the hall in the Athletic Center is no different from walking down the hall in King Building. Again, there didn’t seem to be any rational reason why the policy should be different, and it appeared more as a double standard designed to privilege athletes, despite there being frequent COVID outbreaks within sports teams.

The start of this academic year was no better. Despite making the correct decision in requiring masks for the beginning of the semester, the current quarantine and isolation policies are an abysmal failure and a complete slap in the face to anyone actively trying to avoid COVID. The ObieSafe email sent out Aug. 18, which outlined COVID policies for this semester, stated that The Hotel at Oberlin would no longer be used for isolation and that, “If only one roommate tests positive, healthy roommates should wear a mask and maintain social distance as much as possible.” The email does say, “Students (such as those who are immune-compromised) who have a relevant accommodation through the Office of Disability and Access whose roommate tests positive will be considered for temporary housing, if it is available.” No one should have to prove to the College that they are sufficiently immunocompromised in order to avoid exposure to a deadly virus, but if the College can avoid paying for a few overpriced hotel rooms, who cares if a few people get COVID from their roommates?

In more positive news, a new COVID booster was just made available to the general public. According to the CDC, Moderna and Pfizer’s new “bivalent” boosters replace the older “monovalent” booster that targeted only the original strain of coronavirus that arrived in the U.S. in 2020. The bivalent boosters are designed to offer protection against both that original strain and the latest circulating Omicron variants. 

Where is Oberlin when it comes to promoting these new boosters? The college that supposedly “goes above and beyond CDC guidance” has not provided students with any information on where to get the booster or even annual flu shots, which were mandated last year. It’s concerning that the school I once viewed as the pinnacle of student safety in terms of COVID protocols hasn’t said a word about the new boosters.

Going into the fall, it’s likely that we will see another resurgence of COVID, and getting a booster can help protect you and those around you from getting sick. Even if COVID won’t severely impact someone’s health, missing class and other activities will put people at an academic disadvantage. Getting updated vaccines is, and always has been, about protecting not just yourself but also those around you. Therefore, I strongly urge you to get the latest booster. You can schedule an appointment online to get yours at the CVS nearby when available. The College may be done promoting ways to mitigate the spread of COVID, but that doesn’t mean we as a community shouldn’t be taking basic precautions.

To schedule your COVID-19 bivalent booster, visit