This story reminds me of the abject insanity we covered earlier this year when Cal Berkeley announced an official policy for students that barred even solo outdoor exercise among its student population, requiring everyone to remain imprisoned in their rooms nearly 24/7. This was not remotely supported by any science, but that didn't stop officious, power-hungry "safetyists" from doing their thing.
Along similar lines, Oregon's left-wing governor recently imposed an outdoor mask mandate, even for fully vaccinated people, which is also cartoonishly anti-science. Not wanting to be left behind in the performative COVID mitigation olympics, Amherst College – a lefty liberal arts school in Massachusetts – is getting in on the act:
Even with vaccine mandate in place, Amherst is keeping its dining hall closed and is barring students from going into town for anything other than essential business like banking or pharmacy. Am curious, are other colleges taking similarly stringent steps? https://t.co/pGZT54ZVWC— Alec MacGillis (@AlecMacGillis) August 30, 2021
As the Delta variant continues to plague the nation, the college announced on Tuesday that it has tightened its public health precautions for the first two and a half weeks of the Fall 2021 semester (from move-in to Sept. 13). The restrictions include: indoor double-mask mandates, two Covid tests upon arrival, a bi-weekly testing requirement, limits on indoor gathering sizes, off-campus travel restrictions and an elimination of in-person dining services. These restrictions were put into place on Aug. 24, and represented an increase from the rules outlined in a previous announcement made eight days prior. The new protocols caused significant student backlash, including an open letter signed by over 250 students asking the administration to reconsider the changes. Last spring, the college announced that all students, faculty and staff must be fully vaccinated to return to campus, with exceptions granted only on medical or religious grounds...As of Aug. 19, less than 1 percent of students have requested a vaccine exemption.
These mandates, which are said to be temporary, are being imposed upon a group of people who are all required to be vaccinated, with almost none seeking exemptions to that rule. We are also talking about young, healthy people at virtually zero risk of experiencing a severe COVID infection post-vaccination – or even pre-vaccination, in most cases. They're forcing these double-vaxxed 18-22 year-olds to double mask, they're testing asymptomatic people as a matter of course (hugely wasteful), and enforcing wildly heavy-handed restrictions of free movement. Why? Data guru Nate Silver throws up his hands, tweeting, "it's pretty insane to put such harsh restrictions in place on a campus where **everybody is fully vaccinated**. Some people have really lost the plot."
There's a bizarre group of hardcore COVID restrictionists who weirdly simultaneously worship the safe and effective vaccines while acting as if the vaccines...are not safe and effective. They pile on anyone who dares suggest that draconian policies are unnecessary or counter-productive, even if the case is made with clear evidence. Silver has increasingly been targeted by this neurotic community, as he's spoken out forcefully against their superstitious, anti-science excesses – which tend to be carried out with religious zeal within "progressive" enclaves. One anonymous lefty Twitter troll confronted Silver with tweets he published back in March of last year (the earliest days of the pandemic), to which Silver replied with a deserved shot at the so-called "expert" class:
Yeah that was one of the dumbest things I've ever tweeted. "Let's Just Trust The Experts" is a great slogan. But it's not easy to determine what constitutes expertise is a context like this one. And blind trust in experts probably makes experts perform worse.— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) August 30, 2021
Amherst's flurry of edicts has generated strong pushback in the form of an open letter signed by hundreds of students. I cannot say I generally recommend reading open letters from college students on any subject, but this one is pretty cogent and asks a lot of fair questions. For instance, the students note that the outdoor mask mandate for vaccinated people has no basis in data:
There is no evidence that suggests that masks should be worn outdoors by vaccinated individuals as transmission outdoors is less than 1%. We ask that you revoke the outdoor mask mandate. The most recent COVID-19 guidelines on the CDC website (dated August 19th, 2021), states that “current data suggest the risk of transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in outdoor settings is minimal. In general, fully vaccinated people do not need to wear a mask outdoors. Fully vaccinated people might choose to wear a mask in crowded outdoor settings if they or someone in their household is immunocompromised.” This suggests that wearing a mask outside for vaccinated individuals is completely optional depending on their own comfort level and the size of the event. This New York Times article, entitled “A Misleading CDC Number,” puts the rate of outdoor transmission at less than 0.1%, stating that “there is not a single documented COVID-19 infection in the world from causal outdoor interaction, such as walking past someone on the street or eating at a nearby table.” As such, an outdoor mask mandate is essentially going against the science that we have observed about the transmission of COVID-19 so far.
The new policies are insane and oppressive, and also send a clear signal that the administration both does not believe in the vaccines and has zero interest in making decisions rooted in data. It's COVID theater, and a lot of people are sick of it – especially the ones who've done everything they've been asked to do.
UPDATE – Duke, too. Absolute madness from our supposed best and brightest:
Duke implements an OUTDOOR mask mandate after students test positive with at most mild cold like symptoms— Vinay Prasad, MD MPH ????? (@VPrasadMDMPH) August 30, 2021
What is the goal? And
Why recommend something that doesn't work for any goal?https://t.co/pn4kJgsr6t