The following editorial appeared in the York Dispatch. This does not necessarily reflect the opinion of La Tribune-Démocrate.
York College will require universal indoor masking for the fall semester until its campus population reaches a COVID-19 vaccination rate of 70%.
York College students will also be required to provide proof that they have been vaccinated before returning to campus.
Unvaccinated students must provide a negative COVID-19 test dated less than three days before returning to campus. Students who are not fully immunized will also need to participate in random surveillance tests during the school year.
Considering the latest wave of COVID-19 caused by the emergence of the Delta variant, these are all smart moves, but they don’t go far enough.
We believe it’s time for the school to join the long list of colleges nationwide, mostly private, that require their students to have a COVID-19 vaccine to attend classes in person. If students refuse vaccination due to justified medical or religious exemptions, they should be required to undergo regular and frequent asymptomatic testing, not just random testing.
In Pennsylvania, more than three dozen colleges have already made the decision to require vaccines for their students, including other regional private colleges such as Gettysburg, Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson.
Young people think they are invincible: there is no doubt that young people between the ages of 18 and 22 often feel invincible. As a result, people in this age group naturally tend to think that they do not need the vaccine.
There is also no doubt that young people, in general, have been able to manage symptoms of COVID-19 better than older adults. This has started to change, however, as the delta variant becomes more predominant. Young people are now more at risk than ever.
This is one of the main reasons York College should require its students to be vaccinated to attend school this fall.
Another is that older staff members could be at serious risk if many students are not vaccinated. For this reason, a similar vaccine requirement should exist for school employees.
A privilege, not a right: Attending and working for a private college is not a right, it is a privilege. Accordingly, the school, like any private organization, should be allowed to establish policies that its students and employees must follow.
Most colleges already require students on campus to be vaccinated against viral diseases such as measles, mumps, and rubella. Government agencies have suggested that schools may also require the new COVID-19 vaccine.
Others, of course, disagree, arguing that inoculation cannot be made mandatory as long as vaccines are still classified as “emergency use only”.
Public Colleges: For public colleges, the decision becomes more difficult, as these schools are largely funded by taxpayer dollars. Denying qualified students access to school because students are not vaccinated becomes a more problematic legal issue.
In response to the COVID outbreak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently released new guidelines recommending that all individuals, regardless of their immunization status, wear masks inside K-12 schools.
Colleges shouldn’t be any different.
It is high time to take this pandemic seriously. Our higher education institutions should be leaders in the immunization effort.
It is no longer enough to simply encourage students to get vaccinated.