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University of Chicago should make in-person learning a top priority

While vaccinated Chicagoans will continue to eat at restaurants, attend crowded sporting events and visit bars (unmasked!) throughout January, the U. of C. has decided that in-person learning is not essential enough to preserve,

Pedestrians walk through the University of Chicago campus in March 2021.
Pedestrians walk through the University of Chicago campus in March.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times

I’m a full-time MBA student at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business. University leaders recently decided to shift back the winter quarter for all schools by a week and require all students to attend class via Zoom for two weeks because of the Omicron variant.

While vaccinated Chicagoans will continue to eat at restaurants, attend crowded sporting events and visit bars (unmasked!) throughout January, the U. of C. has decided that in-person learning is not essential enough to preserve, even though all students, staff and faculty are already required to be vaccinated (and boosted by Jan. 24, 2022) and wear masks at all times indoors. The university has not provided scientific data behind this decision, instead citing “public health experts.”

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Given the scientific evidence that boosters work remarkably well in preventing severe disease from Omicron (and still pretty well at preventing infection), most of my classmates already got the booster shot voluntarily, but there is no way to share this information with the university. Rather than forcing all students to be online, a compromise could be to create a virtual “option” for students who are high risk or have not yet received their booster shot.

The unexpected shift in the academic calendar also causes significant stress to many students, especially international students, many of whom had already booked expensive flights or planned family events around the calendar published last year. Changing the dates of the quarter without much notice or student input forces many students to make costly travel adjustments. In a quick poll we conducted an hour after the university’s decision, 233 students replied that they preferred the old schedule while only 12 preferred the modified schedule.

The university continues to tell us their first priority is our “health and safety.” After staring at a computer screen for most of my MBA, I wish the university would instead begin prioritizing in-person learning, especially given the clear scientific data behind the efficacy of vaccines, boosters and masks at protecting against COVID-19.

Daniel Huizinga, Loop

Get back on the right health track

The best New Year’s resolution you can make for your family and yourself is to get back on track with your health care. Obviously, with the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, it is critical that everyone get vaccinated and that eligible people get the booster as soon as possible.

During the pandemic, many of your visits to your doctor’s office for routine preventive care, including cancer screenings, have been delayed. You know this may have serious consequences for undetected medical issues down the road. Get some peace of mind about your health. The sooner conditions are caught, the better for your long-term health.

There is no substitute for a visit with your physician. Your doctor’s office is safe and ready to provide the screenings and protective vaccines that you need. Start 2022 off right by calling your doctor today for a visit.

Regan Thomas, MD
President, Illinois State Medical Society