“Play stupid games, win stupid prizes”

Courtesy of Unsplash | According to the Duquesne dashboard, 99% of the student population has been compliant with Covid-19 vaccine policies on campus.

by Peter Boettger | staff columnist

Feb. 10, 2022

While roughhousing with my older brother, my Mom often used the saying: “Play stupid games, win stupid prizes.” Throughout this pandemic, this country has seen this saying come true with countless examples of people playing the game Cat & Mouse with Covid-19. We’ve seen numerous anti-vaxxers lose their lives to something that is completely avoidable by simply receiving a vaccine, but unfortunately they decided to downplay Covid’s lethality — and got punished for it. 

With that said, students haven’t been playing around with the virus, an overwhelming amount of them have obtained vaccines and boosters ever since they were available. At Duquesne, 93% of resident students are vaccinated, and in some cases boosted, too, as of Jan. 31 statistics.

As someone whose family is split between the states of North Carolina and Delaware, I’ve been in two completely different environments when it comes to Covid policy. However, neither states has as many mandates as Duquesne. At the University of Delaware, masks are required at all indoor facilities with the only exception being students actively running around the gym. My step-brother plays lacrosse at a small private school for Lees McRae College in North Carolina, and masks are only required in classrooms but aren’t mandated in hallways, gyms, etc.

I’m never going to say to take the North Carolinian approach and get rid of masks entirely at every public event, though the number of cases are steadily declining, not only in Allegheny County, but in all of Pennsylvania.

Duquesne students should at least be allowed to take off the mask in their dorms or while actively running around in the gym or basketball court.

Many sources differ on their threshold for herd immunity. For example, Mayo Clinic, says herd immunity is feasible if 70% of the population is vaccinated, while Yale Medicine says “it’s now estimated to be higher—some say up to 85%.” Even Dr. Fauci told the New York Times in December “We really don’t know what the real number is. I think the real range is somewhere between 70 to 90%.” 

With the 93% vaccination mark, the Duquesne student population is past the point of herd immunity, according to statistics and should be granted a loosened mask mandate.

But it’s not only the mandates, this is also about compliance with the mandates. According to the Duquesne dashboard, 99% of the student population has been compliant with the Covid-19 vaccine policy. Yet we’re as cautious with the Omicron variant as we were with the initial wave in 2020, despite the vast amount of vaccinations and the lower number of hospitalizations of the vaccinated and people between the ages of 18-29. 

Do I have to acknowledge the obvious and say scores of people on campus don’t follow the rules in dorms anyway? I’ve seen countless students on my floor, and on floors of my friends not wearing masks, whether in the hallway, laundry room or even in the elevator. I’ve even talked to different RAs when they don’t have masks on. But it’s not only our dorms, it’s our very own arena.

In working for the production crew of the athletic department, crowd shots reveal that spectators, ranging from kids to the elderly, are not wearing masks at sporting events. Moreover, at the season opener for the men’s team against Rider,  an overwhelming number of the invigorated student section weren’t wearing a mask— but, no one from the event staff asked a student to put their mask back on. 

I went to both of the women’s basketball games versus Pitt and Akron, and not a single arena staff member asked me to put on a mask when I took it off during both of those games. Even when I walked to the concession stand to get a drink during both games, no one stopped me. 

Finally, who are we supposed to be protecting? Over 90% of students, whether commuter or on-campus, are vaccinated. Perhaps we’re protecting the elderly? According to the New York Times, the percentage of the 65+ population that’s vaccinated in Allegheny County is 87%, and that percentage remains over 80% in every county surrounding Allegheny with the only exception being Beaver County. But those percentages pass every metric for the herd immunity previously mentioned.

While you can say we’re protecting the unvaccinated, why should the vaccinated be responsible for those without religious or medical exemptions? If those without exemptions are going to play the stupid game of Cat & Mouse with Covid, they’re going to win the stupid prize of a hospital bill; And I do not care, and will not care about something completely avoidable, especially with all the precautions such as vaccines, which have been available for almost a year now.