Nearing the end: Students discuss post-COVID life

As the number of vaccinated individuals approaches 100 million in the United States and the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel gets closer, states across the nation are dramatically opening their vaccine eligibility. Most states currently allow anyone above the age of 18 to get vaccinated, and recent reports say that children at least 12 years of age can safely receive the vaccine.

Because of this availability and the foreseeable end of the pandemic, John Brown University is eager to get students vaccinated in order to allow a sense of normalcy to slowly return. On March 31, JBU held its first vaccine clinic, with between 250 and 300 students receiving a dose of the Moderna vaccine. While that is a decent amount of the student body, there are still many students that need to receive a shot in order to reach the targeted immunity standard of around 80% that JBU is looking for in order to make major policy changes. “Our sign-ups for vaccines are dramatically lower than what our expectations were,” Trevor Magness said, resident director of J. Alvin, who helped organize an informational vaccine panel.

As of right now, vaccinated students already have some minor perks. Lea Hart, coordinator of student COVID care for JBU, said, “Right now, if a vaccinated student is exposed to a COVID-19 positive student, they are not required to go into quarantine per the CDC and ADH guidelines. Consequently, we have begun to keep a record of students who are vaccinated so we do not have to contact them emergently if a student who becomes ill has been around them unmasked or not adequately socially distanced.”

She continued, “Nurse Rhonda and I are collecting vaccine records to have students who have received the vaccine on record as COVID-19 vaccine policy changes. We are also attempting to approximate how many people on-campus have been vaccinated, so we can begin having significant conversations about changing COVID-19 masking and distancing policies.”

As far as policy changes go, the university announced on April 14 that there would be no changes to the COVID-19 policies, including mask wearing and physical distancing, for the rest of the semester. However, open dorm has returned, allowing a limited number of student visitors in living spaces.

As the pandemic continues and talks of a fourth wave in the U.S. circulate, many are remaining hopeful that the vaccine is a major step towards normalcy in small communities like Siloam Springs. When asked what the first thing students would do after receiving the vaccine or after the pandemic ends, there was an outpour of optimism at the idea of returning to activities that used to feel so normal but have recently felt very distant.

Senior psychology major Averee Gumm said, “The first thing I’m going to do after the pandemic is over is travel. I’m not sure where I want to go, but I’ve missed traveling so much this past year. I’ll make a quick plan and just go somewhere as soon as I can.”

“To be honest, I’m most excited about getting fully vaccinated so that I can have tea with my elderly immune-compromised neighbor. She’s a widow with no family around, and before the pandemic hit, we would have tea and whatever she’d been baking every Tuesday evening,” Nattilie Kirby said, sophomore graphic design major.

Some have been more impacted by others, especially when it comes to their field of study. Connor Klaassen, sophomore music major, said, “Due to the pandemic, the arts have been severely limited. Whether it’s illustration, music, theatre or cinematography, collaboration and performance have been difficult during this time. Once it’s all over and immunity has been reached, I am going to enjoy participating, performing, and partaking in my art.”

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