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Friday, Mar 24, 2023

The virus doesn’t care where you’re from

<span class="photocreditinline"><a href="">Sarah Fagan</a></span>

To Our Middlebury Community,

The last few months have marked a potential turning point in the Covid-19 pandemic. The release of multiple vaccines and continued progress towards greater public vaccine access work to grant all of us a great deal of hope in making it through this difficult time, one in which many of us have dealt with tremendous loss and grief. We want to take a moment to acknowledge that.

Unfortunately, inequities continue to pose a threat to our community moving forward. The recent statement by Gov. Phil Scott pertaining to restricted vaccine access for out-of-state college students not only threatens the way in which we consider ourselves a collective Vermont community but also the health of said community. Unvaccinated students living in close quarters and interacting with each other and townspeople is a recipe for disaster. It disregards the simple fact that, contrary to what Gov. Scott implied, we are still active members of the local community — meaning we will continue to influence the prevalence and spread of Covid-19. 

It is clear that all students currently living in Vermont, including those from out of state, should be vaccinated under the same eligibility guidelines as any other Vermont resident. Moreover, precluding college students from getting the vaccine on the basis of nonresidency has an even greater impact on our campus’s sub-populations who are at higher risk for infection — such as those who are immunocompromised. Needless to say, out-of-state college students are not immune to Covid-19 nor any of the conditions that exacerbate the illness. They are just as at risk as vulnerable individuals who happen to be official Vermont residents. These students, specifically, deserve equitable access to preventative treatment as their susceptibility to the Covid-19 virus is a reality, unchanged by their lack of official residency. 

Simply put: Covid-19 does not show exception to an individual based on the state they originate. We are all able to contract and, unfortunately, spread the virus. Delaying the vaccination of thousands of students for 30 days could be detrimental to the health of the community as the realities of college life — living in a small residential community with communal housing — only exacerbate the threat posed by the virus. Additionally, college students residing in Vermont are not only held to the same expectations in terms of other communal obligations (taxes, local statutes, etc.), but were counted in the census and the American Community survey and subsequently played a role in dictating the number of vaccines Vermont received to begin with. Thus, we urge Gov. Scott to treat the college students in this state equally to all other residents as it pertains to vaccinations. If you agree, please consider reading our recent suggestion to the state of Vermont and Middlebury College and signing here. We will be delivering this to the proper channels by Sunday for further consideration and action.

We want to end this by taking the time and space to acknowledge that regardless of the verbiage of Gov. Scott, you, Middlebury students, are as much an integral part of Vermont as anyone else. You shop here, work here, pay taxes here, attend school here and contribute to the very fabric of what we have come to know as Vermont life. You belong here and should consider yourself to be a Vermonter, if you so choose.

In solidarity, 

Concerned Students of Middlebury

Concerned Students of Middlebury College is composed of Myles Maxie ’22, Miriam Weathers ’22, Andrés Oyaga ’23, Jarlenys Mendez ’23, Aubrianna Wilson ’23, Citlali Aguilera-Rico ’23, and Arlo Fleischer ’21.5.

Editor’s Note: This letter was originally published as an email from the Concerned Students of Middlebury on April 2. Opinion editor Daleelah Saleh ’23 is one of the founding members of Concerned Students of Middlebury.