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The Daily Tar Heel

Editorial: Students deserve accessible PPE against COVID-19


A mask lies in a puddle in front of the Student Stores Building in January.

The return to in-person living and learning necessitates widespread mask-wearing among students and faculty. Among available personal protective equipment, N95 and KN95 masks are among the most efficient at controlling the spread of the omicron variant.

UNC student organizations have taken the lead on filling this need by distributing N95 and KN95 masks en masse. 

During the first week of class, the Black Student Movement gave out 5,000 masks on campus. Last week, the UNC Undergraduate Student Government built on this work by distributing 10,000, in coordination with the North Carolina state government and N.C. Emergency Management.

The leadership of campus organizations has the potential to help the student body and petition for changes to campus life. While these efforts are undoubtedly impactful at curbing the spread of COVID-19, they also represent the shortcomings of the University at providing these same resources.

Supplying our most basic needs in the pandemic should not rest solely on the shoulders of student leaders.

UNC has a responsibility to provide high-quality PPE to students. UNC has access and connections to resources that most students do not and, thus, should be leading the charge on KN95 and N95 mask distributions. The University cannot continue to call itself a leading public health school when it fails to do everything it can to protect the health of its students.

UNC’s failure to do so underscores its larger pandemic failures — implementing policies without taking the appropriate steps for them to be efficient.

They ask that we quarantine without providing on-campus quarantine housing. They ask us to social distance yet fail to limit class sizes. They ask that we mask up, but do not provide high-quality masks on a regular basis.

The Editorial Board has covered UNC’s pandemic policy blunders since our return to campus, and these new developments are just another piece of the puzzle of administrative negligence. Once again, it is demonstrated that student health and wellness are not a priority for UNC.

Student organizations singlehandedly distributing over 15,000 masks is not a feat to overlook. It takes tremendous coordination and outreach for the Black Student Movement and Student Government to acquire and effectively distribute high-quality protective equipment.

At the same time, it should not be hailed as a victory when it is, in reality, a policy failure of the University. Let us not forget that student action is a direct consequence of University inaction.


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