To the Editor:
As the Georgetown Disability Alliance Board, we are writing in response to Liam Jodrey’s “Respect Georgetown Mask-Optional Policy” to urge the student body to consider the immense harm of this policy.
For many disabled folks, the mask-optional policy was a reminder of what we’ve always known: our lives have been deemed expendable by others.
The mask-optional policy was implemented just one week after spring break ended, despite the arrival of the new COVID-19 variant omicron BA.2. Since then, the percentage of positive cases has more than doubled between the weeks of March 13-19 and March 20-26. Now, we feel more vulnerable than ever at an institution that only pretends to care.
Jodrey wrote that COVID-19 is “no deadlier than the flu” for “healthy college students.” But what about the rest of us? According to the 2020 Campus Cultural Climate Survey, 14% of undergraduate students reported that they identify as disabled. In a post-COVID-19 climate, this percentage is likely on the rise, with many students experiencing the effects of long COVID-19. These estimates also do not include those who live with immunocompromised or disabled individuals. Writing that “the majority of Georgetown community members will be just fine,” not only invalidates the terror of navigating the pandemic for many of us –– it tells us that our lives don’t matter.
The COVID-19 crisis is a public health issue for a reason –– we exist in communities with each other; we contract the virus from each other. While it’s true that one-way masking is better than no masks at all, it’s much more effective when we all wear them.
When Georgetown’s public health officials are determining steps forward, we ask them to consider the lives of disabled students and all those particularly at risk. Our critique is not a personal attack against Jodrey; rather, it’s about the institutions that have cast us out and told everyone that this is a matter of “individual choice,” when it’s actually a matter of life and death for many of us. Yes, life in the pandemic is tiring, but it is even more exhausting when we have to carry the weight of adaptation –– the weight of fighting for our lives.
The Georgetown Disability Alliance Board