Joey Abrams ‘23
As vaccination rates rose this summer, followed by a string of optimistic messages from the Holy Cross Administration, it seemed a long awaited return to normal was finally on the horizon. The school had exceeded its goal for 90% of the student population to be fully vaccinated and in-person classes remained a promise rather than a communal hope. Though administrators warned students against false confidence, rules against gatherings had been lifted and Kimball could finally reach full capacity for the first time since the Spring of 2020.
However, it seems the campus’s collective optimism wasn’t enough to ward off the pervasive Delta Variant. Just two weeks after the last group of students moved in, cases have surged despite high vaccination rates. Since most students had moved in at least a few days before classes had started on September 1, and busywork was delayed in lieu of syllabus week, many of the emerging cases have been credited to the parties and reunions that took place the first week of September.
By Thursday, September 5, concern seemed to have peaked within the Holy Cross Administration and was delivered promptly in an email from President Vincent Rougeau. The email opened with the stern announcement that 25 cases had already been confirmed within the student body, mostly from vaccinated students. Alongside reports of the current COVID-19 data on campus, along with a plea from President Rougeau for students to “take this seriously,” President Rougeau announced that some of the restrictions from the past two semesters were to return – “We know that measures we took last year were successful in controlling spread, and therefore we will be implementing several of them effective immediately.”
Among these returning guidelines include an extension of the mandatory indoor mask policy, a new limit of only one guest per roommate in any residence hall, and reduced capacity at Kimball. Non-student guests are also now prohibited. While in-person classes have returned this semester, President Rougeau maintained that cases largely weren’t attributed to in-class transmission. Instead, the cases seem to have stemmed from “off-campus social events.” While the email was a sobering reminder of the continued effects of the pandemic, President Rougeau concluded on a hopeful note: “In my time here, I have already learned how much people in this community care about one another, and their impact on the world around them. Now is the time to demonstrate that care, as we work to keep this community safe, healthy and together. You have done this before, and I know that we can pull together to do it again.”
Student reactions to the return of some regulations have been a mixed bag as some students seem more concerned about the rising number of cases than others. William Muller ‘23 sees the continued regulations as a necessary sacrifice: “I don’t really mind the new rules, especially since we have to worry about our faculty and their families.” He went on to explain how continued masking and distancing requirements were already in most of his professors’ plans, even before the spike in cases. “My professors had already strictly outlined the use of masks and distancing within the first few minutes of class and on their syllabi. They want to see that kind of initiative from students, and they have relaxed their absence policies to ensure that even mild symptoms represented by students are addressed immediately,” Muller said.
Fellow Junior Mckenna Best ‘23 corroborated this idea: “My professors have all stated that they’re taking the COVID-19 issue seriously. They have to prioritize the safety of their unvaccinated children/grandchildren and older parents over our return to a normal academic experience, and they’re warranted in doing that.” For Mckenna, she sees “partying” as the weak link in COVID safety.
As of September 13th, the Holy Cross COVID Dashboard reports 77 active cases within the student body. Still, the campus remains at “Low Alert,” according to the Dashboard.