Katelynn Singleton, Campus Carrier news editor
Following the recent surge of the COVID-19 delta variant, Berry has reinstated a mask mandate on campus. Students are being asked to wear masks while indoors or in public spaces, regardless of vaccination status. Students and faculty members who aren’t vaccinated are being asked to participate in COVID-19 testing twice a week, at their own expense. If a student tests positive, they will be sent home to quarantine for the ten-day period.
During the summer semester, students were not required to follow these measures. However, following the labeling of Floyd County by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as a region of substantial transmission, on August 8 masks were once again enforced on campus. Berry is still working closely with the CDC to gain information about the delta variant, as well as Floyd County hospitals and the regional director of public health.
Chief of Staff, Debbie Heida, said that Berry students have been good at following the guidelines and understanding the reason behind the masks. Heida also stated that with the visual reminders of masks, students are remembering the need to social distance as well, without having to be reminded. Students are asked to follow the requirements when off-campus in order to stay safe.
“I think the thing that can be very discouraging, especially for students, is that we left last year very hopeful, and then the delta variant hit,” said Heida.
Casee Gilbert, director of hospitality and event services, said that students will not be expected to fill out forms to request to leave campus. Gilbert says that last fall, it was difficult having to determine which students should be allowed to go off-campus because students have evolving, busy schedules. Although it helped with state-to-state travel, many students had to leave for internships, appointments or scholarship requirements.
“One of the best parts about Berry is the ability to have connections with our larger community,” Gilbert said. “A very high percentage of students had to leave daily in order to complete those responsibilities they have as a student,”
According to Heida, 71% of the Berry student population is vaccinated, along with 93% of faculty and 73% of staff. Once vaccination rates are higher, there is a possibility that masks will no longer be required.
“We need to get a higher level of this (vaccine) in order to make a different decision,” said Heida.
Berry will be hosting a vaccine clinic in partnership with Floyd Medical Center on Friday, Aug. 27 from 10 am-2 pm. This will be the third vaccine clinic Berry has held on campus. The vaccine is free of charge to students and staff who want it. There will be another clinic on campus three weeks after.
Krannert is also having to adapt to the new guidelines. Seating in the lobby remains the same as last year, with chairs spaced out so students can distance themselves. There has been more seating added to Kilpatrick Commons, in part to allow space in the dining hall, and in part because of the large number of students that will be on campus this year.
Cecily Crow, the director of student activities, said that depending on the size, events may be held indoors or outdoors. Although nothing has been said regarding social distancing yet, many are choosing to take that extra precaution to remain safe. Rage in the Cage is one event that will be held indoors and outdoors. While there will be activities inside the Cage Athletic center, there will also be activities on the Cage lawn.
“We’re hoping that within the next few weeks things will start to settle down,” Crow said. “But, if not, we have the experience last year so we’re prepared to make adjustments as needed.”