Before arriving on campus, students are required to provide immunization records. These vaccinations include Meningococcal (meningitis) and Measles, diseases that have affected millions. COVID-19 has affected millions of people, which is why it should be treated as previous vaccinations, and be required for college with exceptions for the immunocompromised.
“If people are living on campus in close quarters, I strongly believe students need to be vaccinated,” said University of Tampa senior psychology major, Ashley Ruehle. “It’s not any different than other required vaccines to be on campus so it should be treated with importance. With the rate COVID-19 is spreading right now, I don’t want to see UT students in the hospital. Overall, I believe people need to be vaccinated at school. We are losing too many young people due to this virus.”
As of Aug. 11, UT updated their Spartan Shield Health and Safety Plan. The school previously stated that masks indoors would no longer be required, guests were allowed back on campus, all classes were to remain in-person and there would be no social distancing requirements. This sounded like the start of campus returning back to normal, however, the new plan was then put into effect. Not including residence rooms, masks are now required when indoors on campus. The rest of the plan remained the same.
Although I agree that requiring a mask is beneficial for the safety of everyone, we have seen over the past year that wearing a mask alone is not enough to stop the spread of the virus. With the removal of social distancing and online-learning opportunities, it seems that UT picked guidelines that required the least amount of effort on their part. UT required that masks be worn regardless of vaccination status shortly after the CDC changed their take on masks being worn indoors by vaccinated individuals.
The CDC also recommends wearing a mask outdoors in areas with high numbers of COVID-19 cases where people are in close contact and continuing social distancing. Florida is on the CDC’s list of areas with high case numbers.
Yet, UT has not mentioned any safety precautions about having outside events with many attendees. No longer requiring social distancing options in classrooms,such as having half of the class in-person with the other half online, with alternating days, goes against the idea that masks and social distancing should be used together to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
UT cannot make the vaccine required due to the Florida Senate Bill 2006, however this just showcases the bigger issue in Florida.
According to an article by The New York Times, Florida has an average of 23,793 cases with only 51% of the population fully vaccinated.
Hillsborough County Public School District had over 10,000 students and staff either in quarantine and isolation at the start of the Fall 2021 school year, according to an article by ABC News. Yet, Florida does not find the need for required vaccinations and mask mandates while they continue to house events such as the Super Bowl, Wrestlemania and Stanley Cup Championships.
“I think that the vaccine should be required,” said Olivia Rightly, senior education major. “People could easily lie and say they are vaccinated due to the law here and those people would be putting everyone at risk especially those who can’t get the vaccine due to being immunocompromised. I wish more people saw the vaccine like a seatbelt. It doesn’t stop the car crash but it increases your likelihood of surviving.”
Although, I think it is important for people to decide if the vaccination is the right choice for them, college is also a choice where vaccination statuses affect the UT community as a whole. It is hard to determine what the United States would look like if all non-immunocompromised individuals were vaccinated, but trying to create a normal environment starts with following all CDC guidelines and trying to get as many individuals vaccinated as possible, not ignoring the rising number of COVID cases and focusing on normality.
“If you want to get the vaccine you should be able to do it or not do it,” said Violet Walton, senior psychology major. “I just believe in letting peop le do what they want, if they don’t get the vaccine and they get sick it’s their problem and they can suffer the consequences. I feel like everyone should always have a choice.”