The 2022 spring semester will be held in-person as scheduled, IU announced in a Jan. 4 email to the student body. As hospitalizations surge again in Bloomington due to the omicron variant, students have mixed responses about returning to campus.
“In my hometown, not a lot of people wear their masks,” Anjani Dent, a freshman at IU said. “I’d go anywhere, and I’d be one of the few wearing a mask. At IU, at least in all the buildings, all the students are wearing them.”
When she first arrived on campus, the mask mandate alleviated some of the pressure of potential outbreaks, Dent said. Now, she said the policy is the bare minimum a college could establish.
Dent said more testing sites are needed so students can be better informed about their health.
“There needs to be more COVID testing sites other than the field house because I had a friend who was sick and she was too weak to walk to the gym, so she just never got tested,” said Dent.
Recent data from the Monroe County Health Department confirmed there is a positivity rate of over 10%. This means there are over 468 positive tests every 400,000 people. 70% of those hospitalized due to COVID-19 are unvaccinated.
“The thought of going back now actually really scares me,”Dent said. “I think we should be going online for just a few more weeks because of Omicron. I would feel better if they saw cases decline and then they went back.”
She said in her hometown of Avon, Indiana, even with people being vaccinated and receiving the booster shot, she saw a lot of positive COVID-19 cases and people getting tested.
“I’m just worried I’ll be next,” Dent said.
Mason Hatsfield, a freshman and Telemetry Monitor Technician at Indiana University Health, said COVID-19 was a legitimate concern of his. He said being conscientious and following simple protocol can help alleviate the spread of the virus.
Hatsfield said even basic things like washing hands and protecting from germs can be really effective in staying healthy.
He said he didn’t agree with virtual schooling to begin the semester given the lack of student engagement which can often happen as a result.
He said he understood the health decisions were difficult, but the school is doing the best they can given the circumstances.
Kat Grant, a third-year law student, is both immunocompromised and disabled. They are concerned returning to campus will cause problems for Bloomington and nearby communities in Southern Indiana.
They said they felt more confident returning to campus in Fall 2021 because of the early established mask mandate and higher vaccination rates. Since the first semester started, however, they said they don’t feel people are wearing masks at all times and returning to campus after winter break is far more dangerous.
Currently, IU’s policy requires students to wear masks inside IU buildings at all times. They also announced an incentive program that would give $20 in Crimson Cash to students who have received a booster vaccination.
Grant said they doubt the effectiveness of the booster shot incentive program and think people won’t take the necessary precautions against the virus.
“I have to operate at a very high level of caution, and a lot of people in the university don’t have to operate within this level,” Grant said.
Grant said they believe following other school policies and going temporarily virtual would slow the burden on the communities in terms of resources and academics.
“There’s a shortage of tests everywhere,” Grant said. “Bloomington has limited hospital beds and the potential burden we are creating - not just on the university, not just on Bloomington, but on Southern Indiana - it seems irresponsible when we could be spreading that burden out across other communities.”