With the rollout of the COVID vaccine, more and more people look with hopeful eyes towards the end of the pandemic in the near future. As the world eases out of quarantine, changes around the campus were a foreseen conclusion. We expected more social functions, more openness, and more freedom. Yet, the need for continual safety precautions remains undeniable, with the news regarding delta strains putting a rather viral emphasis on the issue. Which leads us to examine this semester’s COVID Guidelines, a reconciliation of two seemingly contradictory expectations: freedom and caution.
Let us start with freedom. Many of the most noticeable changes in the guidelines come to us in the form of open public spaces. Areas that were formerly unavailable or restricted in the number of people now remain open to those who wish to use it, opening up quite a few areas for groups of people to gather and relax. What used to be unused open spaces in the Student Center or the Dorm Lobbies now bubble over with banter. In addition, no longer do we have to double check if we finished CampusClear before eating or packed bottles of disinfectant sprays for our chairs; little restrictions and reminders slowly flit away and make way for freedom. The loosening of regulations has been more or less praised as a positive change among students. Both students who believe that the new lax regulations are good and those who think it may be too lax both agree that the increased availability of social interaction is a benefit of this year’s regulations.
However, this isn’t to say that the regulation this year is without flaws. According to the Berrien County Health Department, people who display COVID symptoms are still recommended to isolate themselves to keep the virus from spreading. Yet the safety net for the people who are self-isolating or quarantining does not exist anymore. Many of the school departments have stated that there is no requirement for the professors to post Zoom links or recordings of their lectures online. Furthermore, any absences accumulated during such time do not have a requirement to be excused, leaving the decision up to each professor and their class. And rare as it may be, those experiencing COVID-like symptoms in isolation do not have a guarantee that their health decisions will be without academic repercussions.
Despite these shortcomings, Andrews continues to exercise caution. The masking guideline released by the school as of September 17th still indicates that masking will be required until at least the end of October. Furthermore, the school’s effort of building up a registry of vaccination among their staff and students, as well as continual COVID testing for those who have not been vaccinated, speaks to the university’s continual drive toward safety on the campus. There is still a wealth of hand sanitizer and disinfectant to be found across most buildings, wearing a mask is still enforced by the staff as it was last year, and the school continues its effort to exercise caution.
As members of the campus, what can we do? Firstly, you should stay up to date with the changing guidelines. As much as this article makes it seem as if COVID guidelines are a monolithic set of rules carved onto a stone tablet every year, it is not. They are a fluid, ever-changing set of regulations to combat an equally fluid and unpredictable disease. Staying informed through up-to-date information is key above all else. In addition, you should follow the guidelines once you are made aware. It may be annoying, even difficult at times, but the adherence to regulation not only serves to protect you but also the community at large.
If this article seeks to say anything, it is that this pandemic–this difficult, once -in-a-lifetime event that we are going through–is complicated, confusing, and difficult to follow. Yet, let that not be a deterrent to being informed. In fact, this situation speaks to the importance of being informed. As difficult as this pandemic was and continues to be, we can persevere through our careful reconciliation between freedom and caution.
The Student Movement is the official student newspaper of Andrews University. Opinions expressed in the Student Movement are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the editors, Andrews University or the Seventh-day Adventist church.