HARTFORD, CT – As another unusual semester ends and vaccines are introduced to college communities in Connecticut, schools are starting to prepare for a sense of normalcy for the fall semesters.
As of Monday, 50% of adults between the ages of 18 and 24 in Connecticut had received at least their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Governor Ned Lamont’s office.
“I feel very confident for this summer, I think there is a certain seasonality as long as people keep getting vaccinated,” Lamont said at a press conference last week. “If I have some slight concerns, it’s more what happens in the fall where the seasonal flu may increase a bit and (there is) a bit more time for the Indian and Brazilian variants to infiltrate. . ”
Despite some fear, students across the state are eager to come back in the fall and get a taste of pre-pandemic college life.
“I certainly didn’t imagine college like that,” said Morgan DeHaven, a junior at Sacred Heart University. “Not having yet a normal year in college has been really strange and it almost feels like we’ve been deprived of our experience so far.”
Many colleges in the state are conveying optimism and reducing some teaching restrictions in the fall – although they have waited to release full details on how the semester will be officially designed.
Although the colleges and universities in the state of Connecticut are not requiring students, faculty or staff to get vaccinated before arriving, some private schools have already implemented vaccination requirements for students returning to campus in the fall.
Yale University and Wesleyan University will not allow unvaccinated students to attend the semester. Both institutions are planning a fully operational semester with fewer restrictions than the previous year.
“We look forward to seeing our campus regain its full vitality,” said Rick Culliton, Dean of Students and Chair of the Pandemic Planning Committee at Wesleyan. “As we return to a ‘normal’ semester, Wesleyan will continue to consider state and CDC recommendations for summer and fall operations.”
Yale will now allow university sponsored trip for those who are fully vaccinated, go back to pre-COVID clean-up procedures and anticipate changing rules around mask wear, social distancing, and gatherings.
Wesleyan allows students to have small gatherings, visitors outside on campus with masks and resume university funded trips. The university will not change the masks and masks policies on campus.
However, other institutions such as the University of Quinnipiac, New Haven University, Sacred Heart and University of Hartford lifted restrictions without making the vaccine mandatory for community members.
Some people feel that school immunization mandates should not be up for debate.
Marya Baker, mother of a Quinnipiac student, said she would feel more comfortable with campus restrictions lifted if the vaccine was needed.
“They need other vaccines before a student attends under normal circumstances, so I’m not sure why other than being afraid to drop enrollment, they wouldn’t ask for a COVID-19 vaccine,” said Baker. “Maybe once the vaccine gets out of the emergency approval stage, they’ll ask all students to get the vaccine.”
Quinnipiac expects classroom instruction with additional distance learning with student approved appeals and will continue to wear masks and social distancing policies. The school plans to allow vaccinated students to socialize with reduced restrictions, changes in residence policies, increased dining room capacity, and less weekly testing among students.
However, Quinnipiac significantly altered his summer session policies. It allows vaccinated students not to wear masks outdoors or at small gatherings with other vaccinated people, as well as not attending weekly tests or being placed in quarantine if they are asymptomatic. Visitors can also come to the campus during the day.
The university will reassess the outcome of its summer policies when deciding on the structure of the fall semester.
On the other hand, if 85% of the UNH community receives the COVID-19 vaccination by July 1, the school intends to reduce social distancing, by offering most of the classes in person, by operating mess rooms at full capacity and returning accommodation to pre-pandemic visitation and occupancy rates policies.
However, the school still enforces facial blankets, daily symptom checks, quarantine and isolation policies, as well as tracking the pre-arrival and weekly testing schedule.
Sacred Heart is getting rid of its “SHU Flex” model of students taking online courses instead of in-person instruction. The university is planning a full year in person, both indoors and outdoors, and will release more specific information over the summer.
Hartford plans to return to traditional in-person education and will likely continue to follow mask-wearing and social distancing policies. The school plans to ease some restrictions on residential living, athletics, fine arts, research, and other extracurricular and extracurricular activities based on student vaccination rates.
Without an official plan in hand, many students fear they will go through another semester of strict COVID-19 policies if their campus communities do not meet specific requirements.
“The pandemic has radically changed all college students across the state and upon entering my final year at UNH, I personally believe it is time for a change,” said Jonathan Mercugliano, a senior at the ‘University of New Haven. “It worries me that my university will not lift the restrictions if we do not achieve this level of immunity.”
Other students from different colleges are also ready for campus changes.
“As someone who has health anxiety issues and is immunocompromised, I lived in constant fear of contracting COVID-19,” said Meaghan Johnson, a sophomore student at Quinnipiac. “These lifted restrictions can help alleviate some of the issues I was struggling with and foster a sense of normalcy, which we all crave.”