Harvard Goes Virtual—Here We Go Again! The Perpetual, Pointless Cycle of Lockdowns

October 1, 2021

Harvard University has prided itself on being one of the most vaccinated universities in America in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, with 95 percent of the student body and 96 percent of faculty and staff being fully vaccinated.

Recently, however, coronavirus infections have skyrocketed at the university’s business school, with the university reporting 74 positive tests among students, faculty, and staff. As such, Harvard administrators have done what they were expected to do, which is to move all first-year business students from what was an already hybrid format to a completely online setting—again.

The university suspects that the positive tests are due to students not abiding by mask mandates while indoors, as well as not taking precautions while engaging in in-person interactions off campus. 

With such high vaccination rates, one had to wonder as to why Harvard has resorted to locking down part of its business school in the midst of positive cases. Surely, with most Harvard students being vaccinated, the risk of a truly debilitating outbreak is fairly low for the university. And yet, despite the vast change in risk factors throughout this pandemic, with our testing methods perfected and vaccines rolling out to millions of Americans, elite institutions like Harvard still resort to lockdowns as if they are effective.

Such a phenomenon highlights an interesting—and potentially pathological—paradigm that has predominated the pandemic, in which the fear of getting COVID actually outweighs pragmatic decision-making. Instead of fairly assessing the risk factors and how they have changed throughout the pandemic, such as the improvements in our health care system, testing, and of course, the vaccines, university administrators are ultimately kowtowed by fear mongering, which is also predicated upon a rather dreadful pseudo-moralism: if you don’t lockdown after too many positive tests, you’re literally murdering people!

Of course, we know that this simply isn’t true, and yet lockdowns are still a matter of serious consideration across the country, not just by academic institutions, but also by various municipalities. On July 27, the San Francisco Bay Area hinted at another lockdown that “could be avoided” if another mask mandate was reinstated, reported ABC7News

Again, the paradigm is repeated: COVID cases tick upwards, politicians give the same moralizing it’s on you to do better! speech, all the while advocating for more mandates, and then low and behold, the people have “failed to behave,” and we are yet again in another lockdown. 

It’s not necessary to cite scientific research papers to state what is (or once was) generally the bedrock of common sense as it relates to biology and virology: exposure to a virus doesn’t necessarily mean sickness. Allowing the immune system to become acquainted with viral strains so that it can build a resistance is a good thing, generally speaking. Locking everyone down and keeping everyone in isolation out of mere suspicion that there might be another outbreak only conditions the population to not be exposed to the virus, which of course will once again lead to the sudden uptick in cases once said lockdown cycle has run its course. 

The CDC has maintained throughout the entire pandemic that there are specific groups that are at risk for serious illness for COVID: the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions, and the otherwise immunocompromised. Common sense would dictate that isolating those who need to be isolated, while allowing the general population, with precautions, to go about their business, is a far better solution than to slam the wheels of society to a screeching halt. 

The sheer ineffectiveness of lockdowns manifested this July in New Zealand, when The Guardian reported that the country was experiencing an “immunity debt” caused by COVID lockdowns depriving people of the natural exposure to pathogens necessary to build strong immune systems. Epidemiologist and public health professor Michael Baker used the metaphor of forest brush fires: “if a year or two have passed without fire, there is more fuel on the ground to feed the flames. When a fire finally comes, it burns much more fiercely,” The Guardian reported. “What we’re seeing now is we’ve accumulated a whole lot of susceptible children that have missed out on exposure—so now they’re seeing it for the first time,” Baker said.

I could certainly hyperbolize Harvard’s prestige and how it should have the ability to make better, more pragmatic decisions, but I’d prefer to simply cut to the chase. The reality is that, like almost anything else, the pandemic is highly politicized, and within it lies the various ideological camps that have further solidified since last January. On one end, you have those (like me) who maintain that mandates are bad governance, that they infringe upon our personal liberties, segregate society, and create divisive paradigms that facilitate the scapegoating of those who question them. Not least of all the unscientific rationales behind them.

On the other end, of course, are those who favor lockdowns and believe that, whether it be governments or private institutions, such bodies are always here to help, and that no wrong can possibly be done by our benevolent societal overseers. 

I believe the second point of view to be naïve and dangerous, and it is pretty obvious which side Harvard—and many other institutions—subscribe to. Harvard continues to lock down not because it’s beneficial to public health, quite the opposite; but because they are part of an ideological camp that has an entirely different (and unscientific) conception of public health. 

Harvard University has yet again enshrined itself as living proof of the pointlessness of lockdowns. The efficacy of such a policy was already wholly discredited when elite institutions like Harvard found themselves needing to have a second, third, or even a fourth lockdown cycle. 

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