Butler updates its COVID-19 response for the fall semester. Collegian file photo.
GABI MORANDO | STAFF REPORTER | firstname.lastname@example.org
The start of the 2021 fall semester brings changes and relaxation of COVID-19 restrictions. After ending the mask requirement June 2, Butler announced on Aug. 9 that all students, faculty and staff must again wear a mask indoors when in the presence of others. This decision came two months after students, faculty and staff were informed vaccines were mandatory.
Brent Rockwood, vice president, chief of staff, said he is optimistic for the return to normalcy as vaccination rates increase across campus.
“We are very encouraged given our 90 percent plus vaccination rate that we’ve created an environment to return to pre-pandemic activities,” Rockwood said. “Really the only difference from a more normal semester is the face masks indoors. We are evaluating that daily. Our team gets together weekly to assess where we are, and we are hopeful that as soon as the science supports us to remove face masks, that we will make that decision.”
Danielle D’Andrea, a sophomore management information systems major, said she was upset by the news at first, but understands that Butler made the decision for the safety of everyone on campus.
“Initially, I did feel a slight twinge of disappointment,” D’Andrea said. “I think having a ‘normal’ college experience is a common desire throughout my class. On the contrary to my initial feeling, I am not disappointed with the policy itself by any means… If wearing a mask for the next three years means that I get to stay on campus safely, then I would do so in a heartbeat.”
First-year computer science major, Will Fardig, said Butler’s decision to require masks made him feel good about coming to Butler’s campus for his first semester.
“Honestly, the mandatory mask announcement made me feel like [Butler] had a good handle on things,” Fardig said. “It made me feel like the university makes intelligent and reasonable choices, which appealed to me. I think requiring masks on campus was definitely the right choice…I admire the university for choosing to do what’s safest even though I’m not sure it was the most popular option.”
The percentage of fully vaccinated students and faculty has risen from 85 percent as of Aug. 6, to above 90 percent as of Aug. 23, according to Rockwood. For students who are not fully vaccinated, Butler is offering a vaccine clinic Thursday, Aug. 26 from 9 a.m to 5 p.m in the basement of the Pharmacy and Health Services building. Similar to the vaccine clinic offered last spring, Butler Pharmacy students will once again be assisting in administering the Pfizer vaccine, which was recently fully approved by the FDA.
To ensure information and numbers are up to date, vaccinated students who haven’t already shown proof of their vaccination status should upload a picture of their vaccine card as an immunization on the Health Portal.
Last semester, all students had to be tested at least once every three weeks. Now, only unvaccinated students will have to be tested weekly.
Another change from last year is that the daily health screening is no longer required. Rockwood said that the health screening is now going to be used by students, faculty and staff to report any symptoms. Students who have symptoms or are a known close contact can report their concerns through the screening. The health services team can then follow up with students to assess the situation and determine if testing is necessary. The screening can also be used to report positive test results from off campus testing locations.
As far as quarantine this semester, if unvaccinated students are deemed a close contact through contact tracing staff, those students would need to quarantine for ten days. Rockwood said fully vaccinated students who are deemed to be a close contact will no longer be required to quarantine unless they show symptoms or test positive for COVID-19.
Rockwood said that it is important to realize that we are not completely through the pandemic yet, especially as new variants emerge. All Butler community members should stay vigilant both on and off campus to monitor the situation as it progresses. Rockwood said Butler is hopeful for the future and optimistic that a normal year is within reach.