Joey Abrams ’23
If there is anything that the past four semesters since COVID-19 sent students home have shown, it is that there is no perfect approach to tackling the pandemic. Sure, there are some soundproof strategies—social distancing, masking, and vaccination—but implementing them on a scale the size of our school has proved to be a difficult task. The rise and fall of new strains of the virus, as well as complaints from students who wish to return to a pre-pandemic world, have created an environment of changing policies. Backed by data from our COVID dashboard, mask mandates, guest policies, and the implementation of in-person classes have shifted based on active cases and presumed spread. While some continue to find student quality of life a concern, it seems that the College of the Holy Cross administration is trying to accommodate that while maintaining overall safety as a top priority.
Another example of the tight balance the administration is keeping came last week with an email announcing the return of indoor dining at most locations across campus. This was widely well-received among students who welcomed the opportunity to occupy the Crossroads tables or enjoy Kimball’s buffet with friends. However, alongside this news was a stern update to the campus visitor policy, which now requires all visitors to be vaccinated and boosted before arriving on the Hill. The policy had previously made it possible for anyone arriving to gain clearance with a recent negative COVID test, replaced now with a vaccination card showing proof of a booster shot. This echoes President Rougeau’s decision last month to require booster shots for all students, faculty, and staff.
While in-person dining is a seemingly essential part of living on the Hill, some say there is reason for concern given the rocky start to the semester. This past week, the school reported 47 new positive cases among students and staff, a significant, yet still worrying, drop from the previous week’s 93. This all comes amidst a week of partial returns to the classroom, where teachers have had the ability to host in-person classes if willing. As the final wave of students arrive this week and in-person classes become mandatory, some are worried about transmission.
Yet, it’s clear many students will take what they can get. Will Muller ‘23 expressed his immediate excitement to return to the Kimball tables and dine with friends, telling “The Spire”: “It just doesn’t feel like school if we all can’t eat together. A lot of people have workloads that only allow them to see their friends when they eat, and that’s what Kimball is for.”
Regardless, the campus administration continues to make difficult decisions about how the semester will progress. With the City of Worcester petitioning the Board of Health to remove the citywide mask mandate and allow colleges and universities to do the same given a 90% vaccination rate, changes may be coming sooner than we think.