The start of a new semester inevitably comes with a mixed state of emotions, such as excitement, anticipation and nervousness. Nervousness outweighs any other emotion I have about returning to campus this semester due to the new Omicron variant of the coronavirus.
According to NPR, the Omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, leading to a dramatic surge in coronavirus cases in the United States. Yet is potentially less likely for those infected to need treatment at a hospital.
The surge in cases has led to extraordinarily high seven-day averages of over 714,000 in the U.S., an increase of over 18,000 in Ohio and 285 in Wood County as of Jan. 8.
With consideration of the heightened contagiousness of Omicron, should BGSU have returned to campus immediately after winter break?
The university could have had courses online for two weeks in order to gradually transition their students, faculty and staff back to campus safely instead of immediately returning to campus. This additional time would have allowed for more community members to get access to COVID-19 tests before returning to campus, as rapid tests are both expensive and difficult to come by at this time.
It is best to be on the cautious side when it comes to navigating public welfare during a pandemic. Physical health and mental stability for community members is much more important than attempting to return to normal. While some community members may be less concerned about the return to in-person classes after the holidays, others may feel a strain on their mental health because they were asked to immediately return to crowded dining and lecture halls.
Going back to online courses temporarily knowing that we would have a safer homecoming to campus is much more preferable than going “back to normal” for a week or two and then being told we need to pack our bags due to a massive increase in COVID-19 cases because of the holidays and return to campus. This concern comes from the university’s repeated usage of the terms “disrupted” and “undisrupted” semester in their most recent email on Jan. 5.
Another point of concern is the university’s lack of advocating for its students, faculty and staff to get their COVID-19 booster shots beyond stating “getting boosted increases your opportunity at an undisrupted semester” in the most recent email from President Rodney K. Rogers. Universities should be at the forefront for advocating for their members to be as protected as possible from the coronavirus, and in my opinion that includes booster shots.
As of Jan. 5, the CDC stated that “the recent emergence of the Omicron variant further increases the importance of vaccination and boosters to protect against COVID-19”.
With the continued upswing in cases and recent guidance from the CDC, one can only hope that current preventative and necessary measures taken by our university will soon include booster shots as a requirement for the vaccine mandate, and that the Omicron variant does not force a disruption in this spring semester.