As seems to be the norm with the coronavirus, inconsistent guidelines and rules have unfairly restricted some while allowing others to roam free and put those around them at risk. No process more perfectly exemplifies this issue than Northwest’s, and many other institutions, isolation rules with returning international students.
International students have spent much of the last 10 months behind the proverbial eight ball because of the coronavirus. Many cannot leave the country because they will simply not be allowed back in; the visa system is a mess — it actually was pre-virus too — and there is still the ever-present struggle of living in a different country than your loved ones.
Now, these students have to deal with another setback as they are forced to quarantine for the first few weeks of classes if they chose to travel home.
The issue is not that students are being forced to quarantine. The University is following guidelines put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on international travel. The problem is that only international students are being held to this standard.
It should be clear to everyone who has paid even the most minuscule amount of attention to the pandemic that the U.S. has done a rather poor job of just about every aspect of limiting the spread. Infection rates and fatalities do appear to be going down around the U.S. after they peaked at the end of 2020, but the U.S. is far from out of the woods. The “land of the free” makes up 25% of the world’s COVID-19 cases and 20% of the world’s virus fatalities despite making up around 4% of the world’s population.
The same poor job can be attributed to the four-state region — which includes Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska and Iowa — where a large percentage of Northwest students are from. There were many times as recently as December and January where the COVID-19 map for the Midwest resembled a Jackson Pollock painting if Jackson Pollock decided to only use dark orange and red.
The U.S has messed up in many ways in regards to handling the pandemic. For example, we are almost a year in and people still refuse to wear masks, despite having no evidence that supports their claims that they don’t work. Vaccine distribution has been run by people that must believe the Department of Motor Vehicles is efficient. And at the beginning of this fiasco, early warning signs of the pandemic were ignored by state and federal leaders.
Many students returning home over break went back to designated hot spots and spent time not distanced and maskless around countless others. They would have just as much of a chance, if not more, of being exposed and exposing others to the virus as an international student traveling to their home country. The U.S. is not a world leader in terms of COVID-19 mitigation and this rule acts as if it is in the pantheon of pandemic response.
The current University policy is akin to telling someone they can’t come in the house because they may bring dirt in from their car while allowing the guy who just went mudding to stroll through the living room.
If Northwest believes that students traveling could bring the virus back with them and be a danger to others, then the rule should apply universally to all students. If not, then no one should have to self-isolate. The current policy further disenfranchises a student population that has perhaps been most harshly affected by the coronavirus.