PICKART: New COVID-19 variants necessitate a unified front

The+Center+for+Disease+Control+and+Prevention+recently+recommended+double+masking+against+new+COVID-19+variants.+Photo+via+Flickr

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently recommended double masking against new COVID-19 variants. Photo via Flickr

With new COVID-19 variants already spreading in the United States, it is essential that we all take action to protect others and ourselves against the variant.

With three new variants, first identified in the U.K. in December 2020, South Africa in January 2021 and Brazil in January 2021, being linked to higher rates of hospitalization and transmission, it is essential that all Americans, vaccinated or not, do our part. 

Not only was COVID-19 initially downplayed by U.S. leaders and many citizens, but a year later, we still find ourselves struggling to slow the spread. If anyone doubts the severity of the new variants, it’s important to see how COVID-19 was impacting our world around this time a year ago. 

An unidentified virus caused the first known death of its kind in China Jan. 11 last year. Marquette University, along with other universities and education institutions in the U.S., were still fully functioning with students on campus and all classes in person.

Soon after, a global health emergency was declared by the World Health Organization Jan. 30. On that exact day, former President Donald Trump explained that America had the coronavirus under control and assured the public that there was little to worry about. 

The WHO recommended that all gatherings with 50 people or more should discontinue, closing schools, businesses, restaurants and public spaces both in the U.S. and internationally March 15

The U.S. had the most confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world at this time with over 85,000 confirmed cases, a dramatic change from Donald Trump’s remarks less than two months before.

Nearly a year and 30 million confirmed cases later, Americans are left wondering, if the U.S. had taken the coronavirus more seriously, would cases be lower and would we have reached a sense of normalcy again? Would many of our  loved ones still be alive?

Clearly, COVID-19 should have never been underestimated. 

Now, fortunately, there is a glimpse of hope and even redemption. With over 37 million Americans vaccinated and nearly 1 million new vaccinations every day, there is definitely hope for normalcy by the end of 2021.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explains that the three new variants are still detected by the current tests for COVID-19, but can cause more severe health effects and ultimately change the effectiveness of current vaccines. 

It is essential for Americans to heed the advice of the CDC and wear two masks in order to most effectively mitigate the spread of the many variants of COVID-19. 

The CDC further explains that wearing a mask has been the key to slowing the spread of COVID-19, and that with new variants, double-layered masks were proven to be more than 30% more effective at blocking cough particles than a medical mask. In addition, the CDC emphasizes the importance of wearing a mask that actually fits, which ultimately prevents particles from leaking out via the edges of a mask. 

These instructions are not complicated or difficult to understand. It’s a simple task: wear two masks, one cloth mask and the other a medical mask, or wear a mask that correctly fits, which will significantly decrease the chances of transmitting COVID-19 variants. 

In communal living spaces, such as the dorms at Marquette or apartment facilities, students must take extra precautions, as it is already proven that 18 to 24-year-olds have the highest positivity rate of COVID-19 when a hotspot is detected. 

Furthermore, living in Milwaukee, where only 3% of Black and Hispanic residents have received the vaccine, compared to 10% of white residents, it is even more essential that the Marquette student body does not contribute to the health care and racial disparities that have only worsened amid the pandemic. 

Marquette must continue to be strict on rules pertaining to social distancing and wearing a mask. Marquette should enforce double-masking, as suggested by the CDC, in order to lessen the spread. 

We must recognize the severity of COVID-19 and its variants. The vaccine alone does not mean that everything is going to be back to normal. Looking back at 2020, we all believed this would be over by now, which was clearly wrong. If we do not take more individual responsibility, this pandemic will continue much longer than anticipated, even with double-masks and the vaccine. 

This story was written by Max Pickart. He can be reached at max.pickart@marquette.edu