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Just a few weeks ago, colleges and universities across the country expected the fall semester to be relatively normal. Now, with the proliferation of Delta variants, confidence has given way to worry. In many institutions, the requirement to wear masks has returned, and there is also concern that a series of “déjà vu” restrictions will continue to escalate.

These concerns are understandable, especially on campuses with low vaccination rates. But this year is different. We should be able to balance safety and normality more effectively. There is our cake and our cake.

We know how to stop the spread of COVID-19 in residential colleges and universities. We also know the cost of doing so, including manpower and financial costs. The challenge we face is to strike the right balance between maintaining campus safety and providing a normal university experience—and strike a balance in a polarized environment in which people who care about safety and those who care about personal freedom There is a gap between them. It is almost certain that any agreement we adopt will be subject to fierce controversy.

Last year, the focus was on safety. Some higher education institutions only provide distance learning. Others use a combination of testing, tracking, isolation, isolation, distancing, sheltering, enhanced ventilation, de-densification, and restrictions on extracurricular and extracurricular activities to prevent outbreaks. Although some have succeeded and some have not, in many campuses, teaching and learning under strict and ever-changing constraints has led to exhaustion of faculty and staff, burnout, alienation of students, reduced educational outcomes, and reduced campus experience.

A sort of Recent studies It is recommended that campuses with a vaccination rate higher than 90% can provide a complete residential experience this year without extensive testing, shelter, and alienation. If institutions with low vaccination rates want to avoid large-scale outbreaks, they will have to adopt some combination of measures used last year, including distancing and regular screening, and even screening asymptomatic community members.

Of course, every campus is different. Compared with small rural universities, large urban universities face greater challenges in controlling communication. Residential colleges have great advantages over commuter campuses. The degree of community transmission varies from state to state and from county to county, and only wealthier institutions can afford a full range of COVID prevention measures.

Colleges and universities can decide for themselves to take the measures that best suit their particular situation. Unfortunately, this is not an option for many institutions.In some states, conservative governors and legislators prohibit vaccinations and even wear masks, resulting in Protests and petitions From many faculty, staff, students and parents.

Even for private institutions in the Free State, including us, the updated public health measures have proven to be controversial. Both Hamilton College and Cornell University require all students to be vaccinated this fall, and Hamilton also requires employees to be vaccinated. Since the vaccination rate is far above 90% (in Hamilton’s case, it may exceed 99%), the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak should be small.

Nonetheless, there is still a lot of uncertainty about the impact of the Delta variant. Therefore, Hamilton and Cornell are now required to wear masks indoors, and both will be tested when students arrive. In order to prevent the spread of breakthrough cases, Cornell University plans to even conduct surveillance tests on some fully vaccinated students and employees; Hamilton may do the same thing, depending on what the arrival test shows.Two institutions Hope to stop testing like this For individuals who have been vaccinated, once they are convinced that their number of cases is low.

Many faculty, staff, students, and parents welcomed—actually requested— these and other preventive measures, but others strongly protested. Some parents insist on emails, phone calls, and social media that university administrators have no right to make decisions about their children’s health care. Some employees chose to resign instead of being vaccinated, insisting that this task violated their personal rights and beliefs. Similarly, the decision to require everyone to wear a mask indoors has prompted some students and parents to insist that science does not support it (despite CDC guidance) and that fully vaccinated students should not sacrifice to protect others.

At the same time, others demand stricter precautions. Some teachers require online teaching; some students require distance learning.

In many cases, deep beliefs seem to depend on misinformation and horror stories shared on social media. Even some highly educated community members are baselessly worried that vaccines will change their DNA or cause infertility. Others worry that if there are no strict control measures, Delta Air Lines will sweep the entire campus. Although media reports are sensational, breakthrough cases are rare and usually minor.

There is one thing in common on these fault lines-frustration with all the limitations, fears, and uncertainties of the past 18 months. In this environment, complaints about pandemic agreements usually have little to do with the agreement itself. People are tired, angry, anxious and eager to blame.

All members of our institutional community need to remember that the goal is not to eliminate COVID from our campus, but to limit the spread without unduly reducing the student experience. COVID will not disappear anytime soon. We need to learn to endure it.

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