Coronavirus Opinion

UH needs to stop hosting crowded events, take COVID-19 more seriously

crowded events Haya Panjwani/The Cougar

Students attending Cat’s Back event in the Student Center South Houston Room. | Haya Panjwani/The Cougar

Now that many students have in-person classes again, UH kicked off Weeks of Welcome like they traditionally do: with multiple crowded events. Given the continuous rise in COVID-19 cases on campus and in Texas overall, UH throwing all these events is irresponsible.

Unsurprisingly, UH’s Weeks of Welcome events during the first week of the semester were very crowded. They’ve always drawn crowds in years past, but this time, the crowds came during a pandemic in a place that doesn’t require masks or vaccinations. 

At Cat’s Back, UH’s event to connect with student clubs and organizations, crowds of people lined up on Student Center South’s second floor waiting to get into the various rooms. 

“The (Student Center) is practically like a mini airport at this point,” said sophomore architecture major Alberto Delgado.

Some students disagreed with the logistics behind how the programs were held.

“Especially during COVID-19, they could have set it up better instead of just having everyone in one tiny space,” said psychology junior Samana Beidoun. “I just (felt) like it’s super clustered in here and unsafe.”

Other events such as Glow Party and Party in the Park drew big crowds as they’ve done in years past. 

“I feel disappointed because it’s kind of encouraging people to get together as COVID-19 cases are rising,” said human development and family studies junior Brian Banh. “I understand you want to have the full experience for the students here, but there are other ways you can do it.”

UH hosted these events that are known to be attended in high numbers during a pandemic when they are unable to enforce masks or vaccines. It’s unfortunate that the University cannot mandate vaccinations and masks due to Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order. However, there is nothing in that order that states that universities are required to host crowded superspreader events.

Unsurprisingly, there have been over 200 COVID-19 cases at UH since the first day of school with an average of 22 cases reported per day within the past week. The majority of these cases are on campus exposing students to the virus. 

UH has tens of thousands of students’ in classes. Many are unmasked due to there being no mandate. It won’t take long for COVID-19, especially the more contagious delta variant, to spread. 

UH overall has been very relaxed regarding COVID-19 guidelines in many departments. Student Housing and Residential Life have three different operating levels based on COVID-19 safety ranging from least cautious to most. SHRL is currently practicing the least cautious operations level. Meanwhile, Harris County considers the COVID-19 threat a Level 1 threat which means it’s the most dangerous.

This is unsurprising as Houston’s Texas Medical Center’s ICU bed availability is running out. There are so many beds being taken up that the medical center has had to send patients to hospitals hundreds of miles away.

Texas’s medical system as a whole is struggling to care for the rising number of COVID-19 patients. This is not only due to the lack of beds but also the nursing shortage.

The University is being very relaxed with its COVID-19 policies while the state is struggling to give its citizens medical care. The Texas Medical Center can’t take much more. 

Of course, face-to-face classes likely play a part in the case numbers rising, but the Weeks of Welcome events certainly didn’t help. The goal this semester is to have in-person classes but if cases keep going up, UH may not have much of a choice but to put classes online. The University needs to figure out if it cares more about having in-person classes or having recreational events.

UH is taking a back seat to let students decide whether they want to spread COVID-19 or not. It shouldn’t give students a choice to crowd at school-sanctioned events.

If the University can’t enforce masks or vaccinations, it shouldn’t be holding large events and should overall take COVID-19 more seriously. 

Anna Baker is an English senior who can be reached at [email protected]

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