October 8, 2021 | NEWS | By Victoria Calton | Photo by Aida Hasson
When streets were barren, neighborhoods appeared abandoned, and people were left isolated, society let fear control the narrative of COVID-19. “Trust the science” became a commonly heard phrase.
With rolling lockdowns, devastating isolation, and lengthy quarantines paired with fluctuating policies and mandates, many fear a COVID-19 resurgence as mutations like the Delta variant continue to spread.
As Colorado College students return to the physical classroom, COVID-19 policies still dominate the minds and actions of students, staff, and faculty alike with continued masking and social distancing policies.
Mask mandates are not foreign to college campuses. At CC, all students, staff, faculty, and visitors are required to wear a mask when in large groups or indoors while on campus.
Between Sept. 29 and Oct. 5, 11 people tested positive for COVID-19 and zero people were in on-campus isolation or quarantine, according to the Colorado College COVID-19 Dashboards.
Educational institutions at all levels are struggling with how to manage masking and COVID policies in Colorado despite the favorable circumstances of high vaccination rates in the largely populated towns, cities and counties.
For example, El Paso County is one of the higher vaccinated counties in Colorado, with 69.6% of residents 12 and older having received at least one dose, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
Although there is not a state mask mandate nor a county mask mandate currently in effect, El Paso County recommends wearing masks due to CDC guidelines and leaves the decision to mandate masking up to local public and private businesses.
On Oct. 1, 2021, students and parents banded together to form a large protest against mask mandates within Academy District 20. They carried signs saying “Let our children breathe” and “My child, my choice” as they stood outside of the District 20 administrative building on Chapel Hills Drive, according to the Colorado Springs Gazette.
Parents and students alike could not stand the mixed messaging and policies the district is implementing in the name of COVID safety. One of the biggest complaints Pine Creek students had about the proposed COVID safety guidelines was the ability to take off masks in the hallways during passing periods but having to put on the masks once they reached their classes.
Maggie Santos, COVID Response Coordinator, believes no one should let their guard down against COVID, especially if they are living on campus. Due to the congregate nature of the Colorado College community, those living on campus are constantly exposed to the surrounding Colorado Springs community, which Santos believes presents a concern of transmissibility.
“[With the] Delta variant… it is critical that we stay safe,” Santos said. With students’ ability to leave campus during block breaks and weekends, the likelihood of them bringing back the virus is a possible danger towards the on-campus community.
Santos is a supporter of masking policies to prevent the “breakthrough cases” for those who are fully vaccinated and still get COVID. Santos encourages students to “take protocols seriously” to avoid an infection and suffer from avoidable sickness.
Avery Carrington ’24 stressed our evolving knowledge of COVID-19 since the start of the fall semester. At one point, Carrington said he had “[his mask] on every minute of the day.”
As an out-of-state student transitioning back to campus life, it was hard for Carrington to avoid the fear of COVID-19 transmissibility levels within the El Paso community. Soon, that started to change.
“The less reports of there being cases… made me feel invincible,” Carrington said. When the number of alerts and quarantines began to drop, Carrington admits that the fear associated with COVID-19 started to decrease along with reported numbers.
Even still, masking on campus has become a symbol of comfort and compliance with campus policies, in conjunction with an effort to flatten the curve of positive cases, isolations and quarantines.