[Disclaimer: This is full of snark, as I have read far too many COVID-related articles in preparation for it not to be.]
Welcome back Hope College! I’m sure many of you were in the same state of uncertainty as I was these last few weeks, wondering whether we would start on January 25, be pushed back a few more weeks or forced to go through this entire semester online. I’m relieved that we’ve made it through our first week on campus, but I’ll be honest, I’m still a little worried about the months to come. This worry is, ironically, exacerbated by the current flux of vaccines coming from the labs and out to those who need them the most. Now that there is an end in sight, even if it is a bit of a tentative, estimated end, it’s more important than ever to hunker down and get serious about COVID-19 policies. With that in mind I’ve compiled information from Dr. Ellen Awad’s valuable YouTube videos, Campus Health emails and rules other colleges and universities put in place to give you an accessible bank of everything a student needs to know about surviving the pandemic this semester (and having fun while you’re doing it).
Yes, we’ve all heard this before: wear a mask and keep a six-foot distance from anyone who is not in your residential cohort. We all probably repeat this in our sleep, in some way or another. But it is quite important to our quality of education at this moment in our lives. If you would like a better way to think of it, I’ll offer this:
Be like Batman
-Never show your face
-Never allow yourself to get close to others
The fact of the matter is we should all want to stay in person for the whole semester. If anything, it’s bragging rights for when you’re out of college and overhear coworkers complain about how they had to attend school all online during the 2020-2021 school year. If you don’t care about that, I don’t know how to get through to you. And this should be very simple, because we already know what to do.
“What we did last semester is what we need to do this semester,” Kristyn Bochniak, Associate Dean for Residential Life and Education, asserts in one of Dr. Awad’s videos. Only cohorts can be in cohort space, and friends are allowed in common spaces but nowhere else. Everyone still needs to wipe down tables and other classroom amenities before class begins. Fill out health screening forms, if you’re required. If you realize you show one of the 10,000 symptoms for COVID, cancer or the common cold, opt to stay safe and inside, and be careful about what and whom you touch.
Don’t wear one mask for an entire week. I’m personally guilty of this (to be frank, I’m sure I’ve worn one mask for quite longer than a week). Though you’ve gone nose-blind to the odors coming out of your mask, it’s still nasty and you shouldn’t be okay with breathing in sweat, food particles, snot and other delights. Wear a mask for a day, maybe two if you’re feeling extra risky, then throw it in the dirty laundry
Now that there are multiple COVID-19 variants, it’s very important that we take mask-wearing very seriously. A two-layer cotton mask provides more protection than a single-layer gaiter. There’s even research going on to decide if it’s worth wearing two masks at the same time, one paper mask under a cotton one. Sounds a bit silly, yes. But history is full of people who, between being a little silly and actually dying, chose to be silly, and it served them quite well in the process.
Even if you have had COVID-19 in the past, or have been vaccinated, it is still important to wear a mask. It is widely believed that someone who has had COVID will be immune for roughly three months. Which means, if you had it during first semester, your immunity is either up or coming to a close. Furthermore, current research suggests that the vaccines currently being distributed produce protective immunity, which cannot be guaranteed to stop transmission 100%. Now, imagine going through all the work to get the vaccine and still getting COVID through unsafe behavior. Not only is that a little silly, but it can also result in your actually dying. Let’s not do that.
I’m sure many of you, like me, found it absolutely riveting to get COVID-19 tested last semester and are eagerly wondering how Hope will go about testing its students this semester. Let me warn you, it will be a little different. Hope will no longer be testing 1% of the population on a daily basis; instead, they will be testing 1% of all off-campus students. This will include both off-campus residences as well as some cottages that are outside of the college’s nine wastewater zones. This is so they can focus more on wastewater testing, which proved to be incredibly effective last semester. This means that some students—particularly students in large residential halls like Cook, Kollen, and Dykstra—might be tested even more than they were last semester, so congratulations to you. If you get an email alerting you that you need to sign up for testing right away, don’t panic. It doesn’t mean there is something rotten in the state of Denmark; it merely means there’s something suspicious in what you flushed down the toilet, and the wastewater specialists want to make sure everything is alright.
On a related topic, health screening forms have changed a little bit. It seems Hope listened to all of our complaints, because no longer will every student have to fill out a daily health form (rousing applause). Instead, there are only four instances in which you would need to fill one out:
1. If you are staff or faculty and going into work that day
2. If you are symptomatic
3. If you have been exposed to COVID-19
4. If you got tested outside of the college (at Walgreens, Holland Hospital, your grandma’s, etc.)
Because excitement always comes in the form of food. Phelps is no longer making you stand in specific lines. However, it is still expected that you (repeat after me) wear a mask and practice social distancing. As you have probably noticed, Dining Services is, for the first time ever, offering green to-go containers to all students on a meal plan and not just upperclassmen. This is to make the dining process easier and more efficient, as well as to stop us from being the wasteful polluting gremlins we all were in the fall. Here’s how it works:
1. Walk into Phelps or Cook.
2. Be nice to host.
3. Request a to-go container.
4. Receive a ticket from host.
5. Say “Thank you.”
6. Go to food station.
7. Be nice to worker at food station.
8. Drop ticket in box near food station; make sure the worker sees you do it.
9. Receive food in to-go container.
10. Say “Thank you.”
11. You’ve done it. Go wild.
You can take your container anywhere; you can sit in the dining hall and eat or take it outside. When you bring it back the container should be empty, unbroken and hopefully not very disgusting. If you happen to break it, don’t worry; they’re just $5. They are also $5 if you want to buy one and you don’t have a meal plan. Also new to dining is…
*The Mobile App*
That’s right, ladies and gentlemen and everyone else, Hope now has a mobile app that you can use at the Kletz Market. It’s called GET Mobile, and it’s free for both iPhones and Androids (but not free for those of you who don’t have a phone, I’m sorry). When you download it you simply have to search for Hope College and you should be able to view the Kletz Market. Pickup time for ordered food is approximately fifteen minutes or less. At the moment, it will only take Dining Dollars, but they are currently working to get debit and credit cards accepted as well. Another fun trick is that you can access your full student account from it, which means you can see what your Dining Dollar balance is and can add funds to your account. Welcome to 2021, my friends. Students can order from the app between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., as well as 9:00 p.m. to midnight Mondays through Fridays.
A few last things
Remember to take care of your mental health. This may be serious to some and ridiculous to others, but quarantine fatigue is a thing, and during a pandemic a college campus can be one of the loneliest places out there. Also remember to keep your parents and family updated on how you’re doing, because this is a stressful time for them, too. If you remember anything, remember that young people like us are not indestructible when it comes to COVID-19. Young adults have fallen ill and died from it. It is nothing anyone should take lightly, even when we’re a year in and tired out of our minds of it. Think of your professors; they are taking a greater risk than you by offering in-person classes and being here for you. Don’t thank them by exposing them. Don’t share things, even among friends (this is what you’ve been waiting to hear since kindergarten, I know), and stock up on supplies like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes and no-touch/foot-pedal trash cans.
So we can end on a hopeful note
We are starting in winter, one of the hardest times to stay away from people, but we will end in warmer weather and sunnier days. Since we’ve started two weeks late, perhaps we’ll even have a chance to hit the beach before the semester is done. What we need to do now is imagine a better future and put into action the steps that will get us there.