Legal Law

Regulation College Halloween Occasion Turns Into Rockin’ COVID Occasion!

This story is about Michigan Law School, but it could just as easily be about any number of law schools over the coming months. As the holiday season hits and exams finish up, schools are going to throw celebrations for their students. And those students will show up because they’re human and need some measure of social contact.

Plus, an open bar and some appetizers go a long way until that summer clerkship kicks in.

Unfortunately, this is going to happen. Per Reddit:

The subject header: “Meanwhile a bunch of our profession is built on foreseeability” is well-played.

The law school describes it as “a recent uptick” while others within the university are reportedly calling the law school outbreak “very large.” Po-tay-to, po-taw-to.

Students allege the school oversold the venue and then allowed non-law student guests despite knowing that only 98 percent of the school is fully vaccinated (a number that, while high, is quite noticeably not 100 percent).

And while their frustration is understandable, the school wasn’t wrong to host the party itself. At a certain point, everyone is going to have to assume a little bit of COVID risk. Vaccinations go a long way to preventing outbreaks and more importantly they go a long way to limiting the impact of the virus if it does hit.

I had my run-in with a breakthrough after going to my local bar that was carding everyone for their vaccine status. Thankfully, it felt like a mild cold and I lost my sense of smell but everything had passed after 24 hours.

The point is that these vaccines protect us on both ends: keeping us from catching it and keeping it mild if we do. There just is no “perfect” when it comes to this thing. But with appropriate cautions — vaccines, using masks even if not required in some settings, choosing to opt out of the biggest crowds — it should be enough to get back to some normal.

So, again, I don’t blame the school for hosting a party even though it invited the risk of an outbreak.

BUT I’m very willing to blame the school for what apparently happened next. As the meme above suggests, it’s the school’s dumb-founded response to the natural and logical consequences of this decision that’s the real issue here.

There’s no mandate to get tested! Also from the original redditor:

And not required to get tested! They record the lectures, but the quality is terrible. That means there’s a real disincentive against getting tested, and the school is doing nothing to mitigate it.

Schools are navigating some annoying political nonsense right now, but telling students that free testing exists is not enough to weather an outbreak. Either mandate testing in light of big outbreaks or realize that students are going to try to skip it because no one likes having their skull tickled.

From another redditor:

Also the admins: even if know you’ve been exposed or had a close contact, if you’re vaccinated and have no symptoms you need to come to class and shouldn’t quarantine ????

From personal experience, let me tell you, you should still stay home. I get that this is the current CDC guidance, but law school classes involve an isolated population with iterative close contact throughout the day making the risk of spread a little more likely than the “general population” hypo the experts assumed when they drafted that. Because breakthrough cases don’t magically present faster than the unvaccinated cases. An exposed person can still get a breakthrough following exposure without manifesting symptoms for a few days. The risk of spreading that breakthrough to another vaccinated person is admittedly low, but if it were a guarantee, the school wouldn’t be in this situation in the first place.

If a school is going to throw a party at this point, it needs to prepare for the inevitable fallout. There will be some measure of breakthroughs on the back end. Be prepared to say that Monday and Tuesday will be Zoom days until folks can get tested. We know we have the technology — we ran law schools like that for a whole year!

HeadshotJoe Patrice is a senior editor at Above the Law and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. Feel free to email any tips, questions, or comments. Follow him on Twitter if you’re interested in law, politics, and a healthy dose of college sports news. Joe also serves as a Managing Director at RPN Executive Search.

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