With finals week on the horizon, students and faculty are still navigating the COVID-19 pandemic. While the new Omicron variant is causing worldwide travel restrictions, KU students may have to prepare for yet another semester of uncertainty.
The rise in Omicron cases does not appear to be changing the university’s outlook on the pandemic. Watkins Health Service is encouraging students, faculty and staff to protect their health and the health of those around them and get the COVID-19 vaccination.
“From my knowledge of the university’s response, the Omicron variant has not materially changed any perspective of the KU response to the COVID-19 pandemic at this time, in part because it is still too early to know what its impact will be on the KU community,” said Dr. Graig Nickel, medical director at Watkins Health Services. “I would encourage KU students to get vaccinated for COVID-19 if they have not already done so, and for those who have completed the primary COVID-19 vaccination and are eligible for a booster vaccine for COVID-19, they should consider this at their earliest opportunity.”
A federal mandate had required all university employees to be vaccinated. But on Dec. 7, a federal injunction led the university to halt the vaccine mandate, thus causing KU to pause its program. KU does not require students to receive the vaccine because there is no federal mandate. However, students are indifferent about a potential vaccine mandate for them.
“I would love to see a vaccine mandate for those who want to attend in-person classes, said Brenne Ernst, a senior from Eden Prairie, Minnesota. “I certainly don’t mind wearing masks, but I think people getting the vaccine sooner rather than later will help us get back to normal.”
Students have enjoyed attending in-person classes this semester after previous semesters of hybrid learning.
“My mental attitude toward classes has become more positive, said Sara Scheibler, a senior from Chicago, Illinois. “Having to go to classes for attendance physically has made me much more involved within my classes; I am much more motivated to complete coursework in person rather than Zoom.”
The absence from in-person classes came with benefits, such as flexibility and a new learning style to achieve their academic goals. However, online learning came with extremely high learning curves for faculty and students. Being given the opportunity to learn in a safe place was beneficial as students could adapt and create positive learning habits and routines from the pandemic.
“I was able to get a high GPA during the initial COVID semester, but I did not learn that much,” said Xavier Stuart, a junior from San Antonio, Texas. “I found myself getting lazy when it came to classes and studying, but that also helped me become more flexible with my schedule and learn a lot about myself as a learner.”
Although there has yet to be a positive case reported in Kansas, the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta warns that the Omicron variant will likely spread more quickly than the original SARS-CoV-2 virus.