Relaxed COVID-19 policies raise concerns from students

After arriving back to Lewis & Clark’s campus this fall, I have been dealing with a rush of conflicting emotions that come from being a college student during a pandemic.

On one hand, I am incredibly glad to not have to take any more classes on Zoom. I am also excited to be able to see friends and spend time with people outside of a designated pod. However, I also remain deeply concerned about COVID-19 infections, despite LC’s mandatory vaccination policy. While the additional new policies that lower pandemic restrictions make life as a student much easier and more enjoyable, I remain extremely wary of the dangers presented by the virus, which still poses a substantial threat to the LC community. 

Though we are well over a year and a half into the COVID-19 pandemic, it continues to impact our day-to-day life on campus. Many policies from the last two semesters have been lifted, such as the ban on visiting residence halls other than your own and to-go dining at Fields Dining Hall. Some policies remain, though, like masks still being required indoors and for outdoor gatherings Perhaps the most influential policy implemented this semester, that all students, staff and faculty members at LC must be vaccinated, seems to be the largest factor in soothing anxieties about the virus on campus. 

For now, the policies seem to be keeping the community safe, with a very low positivity rate of 0.47% as of Sept 10 according to a campus-wide email from Vice President of Student Life Robin Holmes-Sullivan. 

Unfortunately, I still feel very anxious about the virus. All of LC’s policies are in line with the Oregon safety laws and guidelines. In addition, they are made even safer by the mandatory vaccination policy. However, as the policies ease up, I feel that people on campus have been slacking off on COVID-19 safety. 

I have witnessed people going maskless indoors, especially in the residence halls, as well as in large outdoor groups. In addition, the complete lack of social distancing policies or policy enforcement crops up daily.  I find myself feeling worried about spending so much time in close proximity to others in packed classrooms or standing in a cramped line for the mailroom. 

Sometimes I wonder if my anxiety is misplaced or if I am making a big deal out of nothing as I adjust to the new school year, but I simply cannot ignore the evidence that my anxieties are founded in fact. With the continued rise of the new Delta variant of COVID-19, numbers of cases and deaths are on the rise again. Though vaccinations can prevent infection, it does not mean you cannot pass the virus to others. In addition, breakthrough cases where a vaccinated person contracts COVID-19, though much rarer than infections of unvaccinated people, still occur and are a real risk. I continue to worry about getting sick myself or unwitttingly passing the virus on to someone else. 

I enjoy having fewer restrictions this year. It makes LC an environment where I can talk and laugh with friends again, meet with professors in person and fully engage in my classes. I do not want to go back to the strict rules from the past year. I have a deep admiration for all the people in the LC community who have worked for so long to keep the campus healthy, and who continue to work and make sacrifices every day. It is only because of this work that campus is as safe as it is. We have all worked hard for LC to be a safe place during this pandemic. 

But we cannot pretend that COVID-19 ends with vaccination. We still owe it to each other to be careful and vigilant to keep LC safe.

Illustration by Sofia Reeves

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