What was life before masks, vaccines, quarantining, a lack of hospital beds or the constant worry of getting sick? The second full year of the COVID-19 pandemic is nearing its close, and for many, it has been easy to forget what “normal” living is like. The new variant of COVID, Omicron is spreading like wildfire and it’s harder to detect due to its stealth ability to infect undetected.
Although previous vaccines have proven mostly effective against severe illness, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that Omicron is spreading faster which is leading to a high increase in cases: “The recent emergence of Omicron further emphasizes the importance of vaccination and boosters.”
Schools have been once again forced to consider a return to digital learning to protect students from attracting the virus. Schools have tried implementing masking policies, encouraging vaccinations and, in some schools, opting for a digital learning experience.
After traveling through the year 2020, students know the drill all too well. Although life is not back to “normal,” most students at Concordia have had the luxury of attending in-person classes and a choice of mask-wearing in most public businesses. However, with cases continuing to rise again, schools are reassessing the idea of remote learning to ensure safety for their students.
Linnea French, a first-year student at Concordia, says she feels wary about the threat of online learning. “You don’t get the hands-on feel,” she says. French among many others is nervous to make the switch yet again.
Like many others who live on college campuses, the student body has paid extensive college bills that cover not just dorms and food but what they consider the promise of an effective in-person college experience. “I don’t think it’s fair compensation. It’s like we are spending thousands of dollars for an online summer class,” she continues.
Although there are disadvantages to online learning, French reflects on what the students and faculty can do to ensure a safer learning environment. She describes how students do not seem to be on the same page; some students are neglecting mask-wearing and some are cherry-picking when to follow CDC guidelines. She wonders where to draw the line regarding peers not actively attempting to mitigate the virus.
While Concordia has continued to encourage students to pursue boosters and get tested when needed, not all students have access to vehicles, which can make it difficult to get tested. French says an on-campus test site may be helpful to further encourage more students to COVID test.
Andy Kocher, another first-year student attending Concordia, is conflicted on the idea of returning to online learning. Kocher, who is very involved in the music department, is reluctant to participate in online music ensembles.
“Having a band rehearsal virtually doesn’t work,” Kocher explains. To him, singing in an online choir or playing an instrument over Zoom would feel distant and lonesome, something music ensembles are not excited about. Some classes would transition to online learning well, but others that are typically hands-on, such as music or language courses, would be challenging.
However, senior Devin Dircks has been keeping high hopes that if Concordia switches back to online learning, everyone will be better prepared and equipped because we have experienced this before. Dircks feels Concordia is taking good precautions and believes Concordia and its students will take the responsibility to adjust to digital learning if necessary.
But although he is keeping his spirits high he doesn’t exclude the fact that the possibility is “extremely nerve-racking.” He feels that the rising cases are a great concern and feels online learning may be the best option to keep everyone safe, even though he acknowledges that “a lot of people don’t learn well online.”
While some students feel that the idea is terrifying and unwanted, others feel it is necessary and will be worth it in the long run. While students all await news about cases rising and school closures, the best that can be done is expressing care towards peers and respecting schools’ and businesses’ policies.