To the Editor:
I worry about the health of students at Cornell. One of my first-year students has severe asthma, and many more students are immunocompromised which puts them at greater risk for serious illness if they contract COVID. Our faculty, staff and local communities include even more people at risk. That human vulnerability is why I disagree with Matthew Samilow in his column “To No One’s Surprise, Cornell Drags Its Feet on Lifting Mask Mandate.” He calls the mask mandate “draconian” even though its inconveniences are minor.
Samilow writes, accurately, that the CDC has recently changed its guidelines on wearing masks. Unfortunately, however, the CDC is a political body as much as — or more than — a scientific one. Throughout both the Trump and Biden administrations, the CDC has changed guidelines in response to both the whims of those leaders and our changing understanding of the coronavirus. I do wish some people wouldn’t resist guidelines from scientists, but I understand why; decades of bipartisan dismantling of government — and decades more of deeply inhumane tests on minority groups — have eroded trust in the federal government.
I understand the desire for normalcy: My wife is immunocompromised and is terrified of joining the expanding group of long-haul COVID patients. But the pandemic hasn’t ended. In January 2022, 60,000 Americans died from COVID. We still average well over 1,000 deaths per day just in the U.S. Over 950,000 Americans have died since the pandemic began, and somewhere between 40–60% of COVID patients have suffered from long-haul symptoms. I just don’t understand why a minor personal inconvenience should outweigh public health. With all of that in mind, I hope Cornell continues its mask mandate; given the risks, we should proceed with caution.
Charlie Green, Senior Lecturer
Department of Literatures in English