College life during the COVID-19 pandemic last semester was a distinctly different experience. Colgate students endured strict weekly testing and adhered to rules surrounding social distancing and different phases of reopening. Colgate was prepared to respond rapidly to the ever-changing conditions on a local and national level. However, with vaccinations now widely available, Colgate created a new plan for the 2021 fall semester.
Schools across the country opened back up for the fall and welcomed back thousands of students, some vaccinated and some not. For most schools, COVID-19 tests are only one part of a broader safety plan. Vaccinations, social distancing, ventilation, regular cleaning, contact tracing and masking are also important ways to stop the spread of COVID-19, public health officials have said. The only measure that the state requires is masking. Everyone on campus, regardless of whether they’re vaccinated, must wear masks indoors, the New York State government announced last month.
The rapidly changing safety plans come amid a surge of COVID-19 cases linked to the Delta variant, a dramatically more transmissible strain of the original coronavirus that’s now dominant in college campuses. Over the past month, new COVID-19 infections at Colgate rose up to an all-time high of 58 active cases. However, since the mandated testing period is over, students are now only getting tested if they are close contacts or symptomatic. So the question is, what are the implications now that COVID-19 testing isn’t mandatory? Are students showing symptoms and not getting tested? During the COVID-19 surge, many students were struggling to find tests and successfully get tested, resulting in them just giving up and consequently not getting tested. Professors are also not going hybrid or opening the option to online learning, and, as a result, students miss 1-2 weeks of school when they test positive for COVID-19. Also, many students would very much rather stay at college than go home for two weeks if given the choice.
“With classes starting and so many different illnesses going around like strep throat and RSV, I didn’t get tested. It’s so hard to differentiate between a cold or COVID[-19] and the school isn’t really demanding it,” one student claimed.
Another echoes this viewpoint surrounding testing, “I’m a pre-med student and it’s extremely difficult to take a week off and miss classes and labs when there is no virtual option. It’s made things extremely difficult.”
Many students are finding it difficult to prioritize their academics along with their health. It’s become an interesting return to Colgate this fall with the decrease in restrictions alongside the surge of cases.