Marcus Grant | Managing Editor
COVID-19 is back to school again, here for its third year. I’m sure we all remember the impact it had on the last year and a half of our lives: Sending us home early, causing classes to go online, limiting how we interacted with others in clubs, classrooms, and activities, just to name a few. How will it make its big impact on the 2021 school year? In a very underwhelming way. To be honest, when I think about Eastern’s COVID procedures for the year, I can’t help but think we are going to be hit. Hard.
A vaccination requirement is a great start to moving into a more “normal” school year but really it should be the bare minimum. Other than for medical reasons, there are still 91 students living on campus and 180 commuters who won’t get vaccinated for personal reasons. That may not seem like a lot but as new variants come into the country and eventually into the state, this is going to pose a huge risk to everyone here.
The delta variant is already spreading through Connecticut and the Mu variant is on the rise as well. Unfortunately, it’s looking like the latter is resistant to the vaccine, which further deters people from wanting to get it in the first place because “what’s the point?”
I’m not here to try and force the vaccine on people who don’t want it (although I do recommend talking to your doctor about any concerns you may have about it). Instead, I want to suggest a few things that could help Eastern stay as safe as possible to keep the students on campus and to keep clubs and activities from being shut down.
The first would be to implement testing for all students on campus, not just unvaccinated ones. The harm of not doing this comes with the fact that vaccinated people can still spread COVID. Their symptoms are most likely going to be less severe (if they have any at all) so it’s possible that they may not even know they have it unless they get tested. On top of this, I think having online options for class would be helpful.
If you get COVID, you kind of just have to work it out with your professors, which helps students take initiative but can leave them feeling a little overwhelmed. Their bodies are already fighting a disease that has kept the United States in a chokehold for a year and a half and now they have to worry about asking how they’ll get the chemistry notes or how they’ll submit their art project.
This option also allows students who don’t feel extremely comfortable being in a closed room with 40 kids to have the option to control their situation. With COVID, a lot of people feel that most things are out of their hands. Yeah, you may be wearing your mask and social distancing but the kid next to you in history class might go to parties at other schools every weekend. It will also avoid any chaos that could occur if we ever needed to go online again.
As we are getting more accustomed to life with COVID, we need to work to make people feel safe and take the steps needed to keep the virus at bay. It’s the job of administrators to put the needs of the students, teachers, and families of Eastern above the financial benefits of having a “back-to-normal” outlook on the situation.