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Rachel Jackson / Nevada Sagebrush
The Mackay Science Building on Feb. 10. The NSHE vaccine and mask mandate repeal is a step back for UNR.

Prior to the start of the spring 2022 semester, Nevada’s Legislative Commission overturned the emergency student vaccine mandate for educational institutions in the Nevada System of Higher Education. Two months later, Governor Steve Sisolak lifted Nevada’s mask mandate.

Some Nevadans rejoice in the government’s decision to start taking steps back, but the government’s recent actions are far from sound. The increasing amount of indifference towards COVID-19 is a consequence of state, local and federal governments being unable to fully address the pandemic. 

The repealed vaccine mandate for students is one of many systemic failures that led us to this point, and is part of the reason why the public’s concern about the virus dulled into apathy over the past two years.

According to the CDC’s weekly review of COVID cases from February 11, the seven-day average for positive COVID cases in the United States was 215,418. The spike in COVID cases during the holiday season increases by magnitudes every year, yet the responses from the government continuously lessen. The current seven-day moving average for new cases is worse than the peak of the Delta variant’s wave, so why is the government taking steps back from protecting citizens?

Unvaccinated COVID patients continue to overwhelm America’s struggling healthcare system and drain available resources. The severity of illness caused by the Omicron variant is seemingly milder, but the recent spike in COVID hospitalizations tells a different story.

It is disappointing that a government designed to protect the interests of the health and safety of Nevadans was split in its decision to protect members of the community. While the vaccine mandate for NSHE employees remains active, a large portion of the people on campus are still students. The potential for the virus to spread across the campus is exponentially higher now that masks are also not mandatory.

Vaccines and masks may not guarantee full protection against infection, but it greatly reduces a person’s risk of contracting the virus or becoming severely ill if they are infected. Ultimately, most people benefit from multiple forms of protection against COVID-19. 

It is incredibly sad to see policies protecting thousands of people on campus be struck down in – what should be – a clear decision.

It is unlikely that Nevada or the United States will return to a pre-pandemic state if the government or relevant authorities do not take action to protect the health of their constituents. Adopting the “everyone will inevitably get COVID,” mindset and refusing to acknowledge the severity of the crisis will result in the exact opposite of returning to normalcy. 

Opinions expressed in The Nevada Sagebrush are solely those of the author and do not necessarily express the views of The Sagebrush or its staff. Jessica Cabrera is a student at the University of Nevada studying journalism. She can be reached at and on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.

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