After a year and a half of virtual and hybrid classes, the 2021-22 school year promises a sense of normalcy in the realm of COVID-19 with in-person classes, mask and vaccination mandates, and social distancing.
99.4 percent of faculty, 92.4 percent of administration, and 80 percent of students reported to the COVID-19 Task Force they are fully vaccinated going into the new academic year.
These high vaccination rates are stellar for our campus community, showing the Bluejays are doing their part collectively to return back to normal. However, as we now know, being vaccinated is not enough to end the spread of COVID-19.
The small taste of normalcy being back in the classroom provides, relies heavily on the continual efforts to enforce mask wearing, vaccination efforts, and testing to keep the campus open — especially with new COVID-19 strains, such as the Delta variant.
In a campus wide email sent on Aug. 13, the COVID-19 Task Force updated students, faculty, and administration on the success of vaccination rates on campus, as well as the revised COVID-19 guidelines amidst the rise of the Delta variant in recent weeks in the U.S.
In the new guidelines, Elmhurst University is once again enforcing a mask mandate for everybody, regardless of vaccination status, in all campus buildings with the exception of dorm rooms, offices, and work spaces.
These guidelines are in accordance with new CDC guidelines, where it is recommended that everybody remain masked in public, after previously announcing that vaccinated individuals could gather maskless indoors with other vaccinated people.
The COVID-19 Task Force is taking the correct protocols here to ensure low COVID-19 numbers on-campus, especially as new variants arise.
However, they didn’t address the protocols expected for vaccinated individuals that the COVID-19 Task Force announced on June 14, where vaccinated students could expect to not participate in “entry testing or surveillance testing.”
Clarity in the Aug. 13 email would have been appreciated regarding the testing status of vaccinated and unvaccinated students on campus, especially since there is still the risk of developing a mild case of COVID-19 while vaccinated.
Is random testing still going to be ongoing? Are unvaccinated students required to test weekly on-campus or self-report test results to EU? Is there still going to be on-campus quarantine spaces for infected individuals? These are some questions we feel should be answered before jumping into the school year.
Additionally, while 80 percent of students being vaccinated is great, there is still some work to be done to grow that figure into the 90s alongside faculty and staff.
The vaccine has been available for nine months and research has proven the vaccines are safe in preventing severe COVID-19 cases, complications, and deaths. Getting the vaccine is highly encouraged and is our one shot to reaching herd immunity within the U.S. in order to revert back to even a sliver of pre-COVID-19 normalcy.
While we know that not everybody can receive the vaccine because of religious and medical exemptions, we at The Leader urge everybody to continue researching the Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccine to ease any discomfort or hesitancy, and to get the vaccine when they feel ready.
The vaccine is free to the public, and because of low vaccination numbers, the government is incentivizing those who haven’t received their shot to do so with money, giveaways, and other free items, so what is stopping you if you have no exemption?
If you have to show proof of vaccination to be enrolled at EU, and will continue to receive vaccines throughout your life for your workplace or higher education, how is the COVID-19 vaccine any different than the HPV shot you have to get to become enrolled at EU?
COVID-19 is not going away. Much like the flu it will continue to mutate, but the thing about the flu is there’s a yearly flu shot that protects you from contracting a severe case of the flu.
We must accept that COVID-19 is here to stay, but we can’t let our guard down because like so many other diseases, vaccines have helped maintain low numbers of infection and even helped eradicate them — such as with smallpox.
The fight against COVID-19 can be won and with a collectivist mindset of doing things for the greater good — like continuing to wear your mask, socially distancing, following local and state guidelines, and receiving your vaccine. Together, we can protect our society from a virus that has killed millions in less than two years.