Tue. Jul 16th, 2024

The world is just two months away from the three year anniversary of COVID-19’s earliest known case on Dec. 31 in Wuhan, China. Since then, cases have risen and fallen and COVID variants (much like health mandates) have come and gone at a historic rate. So, with no major isolation mandates anywhere in sight, public attitude toward COVID could become the only thing in its way. So where does everyone stand?

Per a CDC report, BA.5, a COVID omicron subvariant, has started to diminish in its infection rate. Two months ago, BA.5 made up 99% of COVID cases, whereas now it is only 67% of new cases. Meanwhile, the BA.4.6, BQ.1 and the BF.1 variants have started to fill in the empty space with these three variants consisting of just under 29% of cases. In layman’s terms, the Coronavirus is a virus, and much like the Rhinovirus (also known as the common cold), it can not be cured because it continually mutates into a new illness. But while Rhinovirus mutates far too fast to ever be handled, COVID does not. In summation, this means that COVID can be handled just as most viruses can, through vaccines.

Pandemic related medical jargon has been repeated to the public over the last three years in massive amounts. Regardless, the CDC is still reporting a U.S. case rate of just under 40,000 a week, a number that, when put into perspective, quickly sets its place on the historic virus chart. But much like how the measles vaccine diminished measles rates from about 4 million annual cases in 1963 to 120 annual cases in 2017, vaccines have almost always caused diminishment of these viral illnesses.

So where does the United States stand on vaccines? This past Tuesday, U.S. President Joe Biden received his fourth COVID vaccine, and in doing so, cited proper vaccination rate as “the most important thing you can do.” So far, per the CDC, 80% of the US population has at least one COVID vaccine, with 68.2% of people having received a two-shot dose. “Once a year it’s going to be required,” said Biden, after receiving his shot. By this, President Biden meant that a consistent annual COVID booster could be the necessary step for keeping the virus from returning to its high infection rates. However, the importance of continuous vaccination is not seen in the American people as evidently as it is in their president. Per the CDC, only 49% of people who received a two-dose COVID vaccine went on to get the first booster, with only 14% going all the way to two boosters.

This change of pace on the importance of COVID protocols can be best illustrated by the protocols currently put in place in colleges. When COVID first began to spread among Americans, most  schools were quick to send students home until cases lessened. Now, the degree of strictness in collegiate life has become a much wider range, with institutions all across the country taking different attitudes. For example, for those going to Harvard University, your school “requires all students to be up-to-date on their COVID-19 vaccinations including the bivalent Omicron-specific COVID-19 booster”. But, if you are going to Penn State University, you are only “strongly [encouraged] to get vaccinated”, with masks only being required in health care facilities. Meanwhile, if you attend Florida State University, “there is no COVID testing or vaccination requirement to live on campus.”

A spectrum this diverse can serve a good role in helping identify West Chester University’s stance on the matter, which looks to be central. Vaccines at West Chester University are “not required, but highly recommended” and masks at West Chester are also not required, unless you are visiting Student Health Services, but are given out free via stands located all over campus. We reached out to West Chester staff and students to see the degree to which these non-partisan protocols have affected them.

“I got the first two [vaccines]” said one West Chester student wishing to remain anonymous, “but I’m not really concerned with the boosters. I’ve had COVID at least once and it wasn’t bad.” It should not be assumed however that this belief matched the majority. West Chester student beliefs, much like the actions of U.S. colleges, fill a wide spread of attitudes. For example, in our reaching out to WCU students, we asked them to rate how they would feel about WCU choosing to bring back masks full-time on a simple 1-10 scale, one being completely against, and 10 being completely in favor of. Responses ranged as high as seven and as low as one. Despite this, the results averaged out to 4.7, almost perfectly in the middle. However, the possibility of mask mandates is only one part of the puzzle. We also asked these students how worried they are about getting sick with COVID in general on a four-point scale (1 = not worried, 2 = a little worried, 3 = pretty worried, 4 = extremely worried). These results were found to be far less critical, with the ratings averaging out to only a 1.63.

“I think COVID should still be taken seriously even though the scare has died down,” said WCU student Gia Caperila. There is no doubt that this sentiment is shared by a large number of Americans, but one look at the COVID statistics from the CDC will show a viral rollercoaster, with each period of low rates being followed by a spike, even if it never hits its highest heights more than once. 

M. Bordeaux is a third-year history major with a minor in journalism. MS925373@wcupa.edu










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