This last week has been a doozy at GW. As students hurtled toward the end of finals season, a wave of COVID-19 cases on campus prompted the University to abruptly move many finals online and close facilities to the public. Just yesterday, officials dropped the news that the first week of classes will be held virtually — an ominous sign. As the Omicron variant blankets the District and the country, the possibility of the pandemic getting worse is not the holiday gift anyone had in mind.
But on the bright side, the nearly two-month-long Metro service cuts are on their way out, and winter break has arrived. For now, students can sip eggnog with visions of sugar plums, booster shots and U-Pass cards dancing in their heads.
Here’s the best and worst from this week’s headlines:
We did it – the first (mostly) in-person semester of the pandemic era is now over. Late nights hunched over textbooks studying for finals have now yielded to holiday festivities and, if you’re like me, obsessively refreshing BanWeb every approximately nine seconds to check final course grades.
As students go through the holiday season and eventually turn their eyes toward returning to campus next month, they can look forward to an end to the Metro service cuts that have caused an unquantifiable number of headaches for the GW community and beyond. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced that the beleaguered 7000-series train has gotten the green light to re-enter service, after a derailment sidelined the workhorse of Metro’s fleet for months.
It will take more than three months from now until all of the suspended trains – which make up 60 percent of Metro’s fleet – reenter service. But as the fleet is phased in, service will improve – just in time for students to make full use of U-Pass when they come back to campus.
Amid all of the awful COVID-19 news that I’ll get to in a moment, there is one positive headline – the University rolled out a booster shot requirement. All students, faculty and staff will be required to submit proof of having received an additional dose of an approved COVID-19 vaccine. Initially, this deadline was Feb. 1, but it has been moved to Jan. 10 to try and head off a surge in COVID-19 cases as classes resume.
GW was one of the first universities to announce a vaccine requirement last year, and it is once again ahead of the curve in mandating boosters. The University made the right decision here – administrators made a swift, decisive call informed by science to protect the community. They deserve credit, full stop.
The booster requirement is pretty much the only good news on the COVID-19 front. Cases have skyrocketed at GW, in D.C. and throughout the country in the last week. Record-shattering positivity rates at GW prompted administrators to move many final exams online and to close campus to the public. Just days later, Mayor Muriel Bowser reimposed the District’s mask mandate. And yesterday, the University announced that the first week of the spring semester will feature a return to online classes. The booster deadline is being moved to January 10 as well.
This explosion in cases is happening just as students are leaving campus and dispersing throughout the country and the world to celebrate the holidays – even fully vaccinated students should be extremely careful about not potentially infecting their families and loved ones.
This is very bad news. There’s no two ways about it. People are getting sick, learning is being disrupted and hopes of a normal holiday season are slipping away. There’s no consolation or silver lining to finding out that we might be headed back to the hellish Zoom University format that tormented us for two and a half semesters. After nearly two years of this, to see things get worse instead of better elicits a bitter, gnawing sense of dread. What students can and should do now is get booster shots sooner rather than later, avoid massive unmasked gatherings and get tested regularly if possible.
Andrew Sugrue, a senior majoring in political communication and political science, is the opinions editor.