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Georgetown Law's COVID-19 protocols burden students with severe medical conditions like me

Washington Examiner logo Washington Examiner 7/29/2021 Travis Nix
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On Monday, more than three months after requiring students to get vaccinated to return to campus for the fall semester, Georgetown Law School announced that it would be keeping its current mask mandate for all students and implementing a burdensome testing protocol for students who receive an exemption. Besides being anti-science by forcing vaccinated students to wear masks to class, these rules will force students with severe medical conditions who cannot get vaccinated to get two COVID-19 tests a week or risk not being able to attend class. I am proud to attend Georgetown Law, but this new protocol discriminates against students like me who suffer from serious medical conditions, possibly violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

During my senior year of high school, I was diagnosed with agammaglobulinemia, a rare immune deficiency that leaves my body unable to produce B cells, which represent one-third of your immune system. My condition is so serious that at the time of my diagnosis, I only had four B cells in my entire body — for context, the average person has over 1,000.

Due to the severity of my disease, the vaccine might not work on me because my body cannot produce its own natural immunity. I still got the vaccine, however, due to the chance that it could work and provide some type of cellular immunity. I am lucky that my condition does not leave me vulnerable to severe side effects from vaccines and allows me to live a somewhat normal life.

Other people and fellow classmates are not as lucky as me. I am one of millions of people suffering from an immune deficiency or an immunocompromised state. For some of us, vaccines can leave us sick or cause other health concerns.

I’m sure I’m not alone at Georgetown Law and that I have classmates who cannot safely receive the vaccine or for whom, like me, the vaccine might not work. Because of this, a few of them will make the personal choice not to get the vaccine because it is not effective on us.

Yet, Georgetown provides no exemptions for us. In fact, the school subjects us to burdensome testing protocols that treat us differently than our fellow students who do not suffer from similar conditions. These include daily health screenings and multiple weekly COVID tests, stigmatizing and isolating us from our fellow classmates.

We have to comply with these protocols or risk not being able to attend class.

While other students are talking with professors after class or grabbing lunch, students who are unvaccinated by medical necessity will be ostracized as they line up in the main halls of campus to receive their COVID tests. Separated from their classmates, they’ll be outed as having a medical condition and forced to encounter difficult and unpleasant conversations as they explain to friends why they're getting tested.

Since Georgetown is already rejecting science and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance with this mask mandate, it’s not far-fetched to assume administrators will soon seek to distance us in the classroom away from our fellow classmates, depriving us of the opportunity to learn from each other — one of the crucial components of legal education.

All I and others like me want is not to be treated differently and unfairly discriminated against. This is not just a desire but a right enshrined in federal law.

The bipartisan Americans With Disabilities Act requires that schools and universities, including private schools such as Georgetown, provide us with equal access to education. Forcing us to undergo burdensome protocols when our fellow classmates do not have to is far from equal access. It is isolating, discriminatory, embarrassing, and insulting. We’ll be subject to the same protocols as the anti-vaxxers and conspiracy theorists, and all because we have a medical condition we can’t control.

Universities should encourage students and faculty to get the vaccine to protect themselves and others. However, policies that provide no accommodations for students who suffer from serious medical concerns like me are misguided and against the law. All I want is to attend class normally and obtain an elite legal education, just like all other law students. If schools around the country create a policy like Georgetown’s, we’ll have widespread medical discrimination. I pray my school will reconsider and that other universities won’t make the same mistake.

Travis Nix (@tnix113) is a Young Voices contributor and a student of tax law at Georgetown Law.

Tags: Opinion, Op-Eds, Coronavirus, Vaccination, ADA, Georgetown University

Original Author: Travis Nix

Original Location: Georgetown Law's COVID-19 protocols burden students with severe medical conditions like me


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