Breakthrough COVID-19 cases trigger student anxiety

Illustration by Zachary Reinker

If you are anxious about the spike in COVID-19 cases at Lewis & Clark, you may feel locked in your dorm. Unfortunately, this has been a common feeling among students on campus recently. October saw the highest number of reported cases of COVID-19 on campus. This recent spike in cases has been accredited to Halloween weekend and the cooling weather, which has caused parties and events to relocate indoors. With many students planning to travel for the holidays, there is concern and anxiety surrounding the high infection rate. 

Nearly two years into the pandemic, managing COVID-19-related anxiety has been a national focus. According to the Centers for Disease and Control (CDC), anxiety and depression symptoms among adults in the United States increased after August 2020 and peaked in Dec. 2020 to Jan. 2021. After that, the incidence of symptoms dropped. However, it did remain high in June 2021, relative to the 2019 National Health Interview Survey estimates. The national and state-level relative increases and declines in reported anxiety and depression symptoms mirrored the national weekly number of new COVID-19 cases throughout the same time period. This COVID-19-related anxiety is reflected at the college.

LC students have been going to classes amid the COVID-19 pandemic for nearly four semesters, with an extremely low rate of COVID-19 cases reported on campus. In recent months,  however, the number of cases has increased dramatically, and naturally so has the anxiety of students. 

If you or someone you know is feeling increased anxiety due to the spike in cases on campus, know that you are not alone.

John Hancock, associate dean of students for health and wellness, hopes that the context LC provided, regarding the outbreak cases, would quell student fears.

“My sense is that anxiety was a bit higher in mid- to late October, when we had a number of new cases diagnosed,” Hancock said. “At that time, I worked with others at the College to create the LC Bulletin of October 26, to provide some context for the positive cases that we had experienced. I received feedback that the information we provided in that Bulletin helped reduce anxiety.”

The LC website outlines their “COVID-19 Ongoing Response” which provides school’s policies on vaccinations, traveling and face covering, among other things. The school has not developed any new policies related to mental health, although they have added staff members in the Counseling Service this year. 

There are more specific COVID-19 resources on the Counseling Service site labeled “Support in the time of COVID-19.” Here there are apps to reduce stress, improve sleep and manage feelings of depression or anxiety. It also includes  strategies for grief and anxiety, as well as websites that offer online guided meditations, among other things.

Hancock wants students who are struggling with COVID-19-related anxiety to focus on what they can control. 

“Wear your mask, practice hand hygiene, get your booster vaccine dose when you are eligible (and if there are no medical contraindications) and avoid unnecessary higher-risk situations (e.g., in public, crowded spaces or in unmasked social gatherings),” Hancock said. “Talking about one’s anxieties with friends, family or college staff can help. So can regular exercise, getting enough sleep, eating well and making sure you are taking time to have some fun.”

LC Wellness Services will also be hosting a COVID-19 testing clinic for all undergraduate, graduate and law students on Nov. 22, 2021 and Dec. 10, 2021 in order to alleviate any possible stress of spreading the virus to family members before upcoming holidays. The clinic will be optional for all vaccinated LC community members. However, the testing will be mandatory for anyone in the community that is unvaccinated. 

The CDC still advises for everyone who has traveled within the past few days, and is fully vaccinated, to self monitor any symptoms carefully and continue to adhere to all state and local recommendations. 

The booster shot has also recently  become available for eligible students at LC that are looking to combat some ongoing anxieties due to possible exposure. If you have received the Johnson & Johnson shot, you are eligible to receive the booster shot after two months. If you have received the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine, you are eligible after six months to receive the booster shot. 

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