Leading up to the start of the spring semester, many students spoke out against public health restrictions. Some students wrote opinion articles attacking administrators and expert public health officials, and some even argued that forgoing restrictions was appropriate, no matter the effect on vulnerable members of the University and surrounding community. The dismal and embarrassing public health status of the University right now begs the question — when did we decide to become pro-virus?

We appreciate the struggles that many go through with public health restrictions. Social isolation, depression and missing out on many traditional experiences that Yale normally offers should not be minimized or ignored when those in power consider implementing public health restrictions. Yale’s administration has been imperfect and guidelines appear to change at an official’s whim, rather than because of a clearly communicated standard. Holding University officials accountable is a good thing, but it seems that students would rather fight administrators and public health officials than the virus. 

We probably became pro-virus because it is so much easier than the alternative. Sure, vilifying administrators and public health officials is fun; they are human and make mistakes, which is especially easy to notice when their decisions are affecting our daily lives so dramatically. While it is satisfyingly easy to point fingers at someone, it is much more difficult to point fingers at something. Our common enemy is, and always has been, the virus itself. Taking a step back, it is easy to see that administrators and public health officials do not enjoy making unpopular decisions based on rapidly changing data. We can and should be vigilant to ensure that those in power are acting in our best interests, but it is a waste of time to suggest that we do not share common goals. 

The silence from pro-virus Yalies as COVID-19 rips through our community speaks volumes. Why are they silent? They got what they wanted. The toughest restrictions that sparked the most pushback have ended and they can now “get back to normal,” which apparently means COVID-19-negative students entering isolation housing. Meanwhile, their peers are struggling with isolation housing conditions, dealing with classes while ill and are faced with choosing between their education and safety. Beyond campus, there is a clear link between college COVID-19 outbreaks and negative effects on the surrounding community. It is insulting to suggest that New Haven should simply deal with the negative consequences that Yale hands the community. Who are we to dump deadly and costly COVID-19 cases on New Haven without a second thought about the lives we will inevitably affect with our choices?

We are all going to have to make sacrifices to get through this while staying as healthy as possible, with as fruitful of an experience as possible. No one is holding all students hostage “only” for the sake of the immunocompromised or elderly, as some have suggested. In fact, our current situation is essentially the inverse — we are holding immunocompromised and elderly community members hostage, forcing them to make difficult choices for their health as we lift restrictions and allow cases to rise. It’s time for pro-virus Yalies to take some ownership of the problem we all share instead of shirking responsibilities, especially because we all face the same threat from COVID-19. 

This is not a call to “cancel” pro-virus students. Instead, we should help bring these students back into our community before they fall off the ledges of misinformation and casual cruelty. There will be more surges in cases. Right now, undergraduate cases are soaring; tomorrow it could be graduate students like ourselves. How can we reverse course and meaningfully talk with our pro-virus friends? Finding common ground is a start, and we all share an overwhelming desire to be done with this virus. We cannot afford to continue fighting each other, but we can make progress if we fight the virus together instead.

Patrick Buckley and Kristen Ramsey are third-year doctoral students from the Microbial Pathogenesis Department. Contact them at patrick.buckley@yale.edu and kristen.ramsey@yale.edu