The Omicron variant has caused a new surge in COVID-19 cases across the country. In North Carolina, the seven-day average of new cases on Jan. 30 was over 24,000. On Jan. 30, 2021, when most classes at Meredith were virtual, the seven-day average of new cases was just under 5,000. Despite the vast increase in the number of cases in North Carolina since this time last year, Meredith—along with most other universities—is holding classes in-person.
While the COVID-19 vaccine is required for Meredith students and employees, not all Meredith students have been vaccinated due to exemptions, and not all have access to high-quality masks. Additionally, Meredith is holding multiple classes in a classroom per day, which may increase the chance of the virus spreading from one class to the next. Though no one wants to revert back to fully online classes, are we safe continuing to attend courses fully in-person? A hybrid option might help decrease our risk of exposure to the virus.
While there have been a few changes compared to last semester—like the vaccination requirement—the overall atmosphere of classes and campus events is largely the same. Though there are precautions in place to prevent the spread of the virus, the Omicron variant is much more contagious than previous variants. Meredith is also strongly encouraging but not requiring boosters, which would be effective to continuously keep Meredith College students, faculty and staff safe.
Cloth masks are being discouraged, though the recommended surgical, N95, KN95 or KF94 masks are not being provided. While these masks are available in the campus store at cost, purchasing new masks is not achievable for all students. Additionally, not all students are able to make it to distribution points where free masks are available courtesy of the U.S. government.
If Meredith were to incorporate a hybrid option for courses, those who are feeling under the weather or feel unsafe in the classroom could use Zoom like they could during the 2020-21 school year. This would allow students to continue receiving their education while keeping themselves and others safe.
Whether or not the mode of classes changes over the course of the semester, it is in everyone’s best interest to continue following clear, set measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Keeping up with one’s vaccinations, wearing masks properly and following social distancing guidelines will continue to help keep Meredith students safe.
By Maggie Barnhill, Staff Writer