Sept. 4 was not only disappointing for Bobcat football fans but also for those concerned about public health and safety. On Aug. 31, Ohio University President Hugh Sherman announced that all students, faculty and staff need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 15. This was a move in the right direction; however, the university has contradicted themselves regarding concern for safety.

Leading up to the football game, the Ohio Bobcats athletics Twitter account was encouraging students to “Pack Peden.” A couple of days later, another tweet provided information about the football game, recommending unvaccinated guests to wear masks. However, as people know, vaccinated individuals can still contract COVID and spread the virus, rendering this recommendation useless. 

On the day of the game, the Ohio Football account tweeted a photo with the stands of Peden full, writing, “Incredible to have you back,” and an hour later tweeted they were glad to see 23,904 fans in the stands. It is irresponsible of the university to allow 23,904 people in a stadium, especially after the email Gillian Ice, special assistant to the president for public health operations, sent before the game on Sept. 3, writing, “Like many other universities in the state and nation, we are experiencing a dramatic increase in positive COVID-19 cases on our campuses.”

After the game, the athletics account tweeted a photo of students in the stands, thanking everyone who attended the game for their support. The university’s official Twitter account retweeted the photo. In the saddest game of “Where’s Waldo,” there are about five people wearing masks in the picture. This is disheartening because, in that same email from Ice on Friday, she asked people to “mask indoors and in crowded areas” to keep people safe. 

The university’s actions pertaining to the first football game of the year show where their priorities lie. Cases in Athens are on the rise, with 406 cases from Sept. 1 through Sept. 7, resulting in a 6.3% increase compared to the previous seven-day range of Aug. 25 through Aug. 31. It is worrisome that the university will not exercise its power when it comes to crowd control. 

When it comes to events such as football games, OU should follow the direction of local places such as The Union, which requires proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test to enter the establishment. If OU uses this guideline for events, they can encourage more students to get vaccinated and decrease COVID cases.

People want to get back to “normal” yet refuse to take the necessary steps. The university encouraging super-spreader events is unacceptable. Instead of encouraging students to “Pack Peden,” we need to be encouraging them to “Pack Heritage Hall,” get vaccinated and keep wearing masks.

Iana Fields is a senior studying English creative writing at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. Want to talk to Iana? Tweet her @FieldsIana.