COVID variants present new concerns for college students

With school starting up again, conversations surrounding COVID-19 have increased, especially concerning the new vaccines and variants of the virus. As subvariants of the Omicron strain keep appearing, new vaccines are coming out to help combat the spread of these mutated strains.

With these new variants, the symptoms of COVID are also changing. It’s becoming harder to differentiate it from other familiar illnesses like the common cold. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the symptoms of these new strains to help identify positive cases before they have a chance to spread.

According to Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago’s top doctor, the most prominent symptoms of these new subvariants are sore throats, fever, congestion and fatigue, she said for NBC Chicago. The main symptoms of the virus are still respiratory and are the ones most likely to linger.

On Sept. 8, the Biden administration addressed the public, updating them on the situations concerning the new vaccines. The recent mutations in the Omicron variant make the virus present itself differently while also making it easier to transmit. According to ABC News, the Biden administration has more than 170 million doses of the new vaccines and plans to distribute them nationwide.

What everyone wants to know is whether or not our school will require us to get these new vaccines and booster shots. I think that it’s important for everyone to get these new vaccines to help protect themselves and their loved ones. Though as these new variants spread and people continue to talk about how COVID might start to mirror the flu in how it’s handled, the new vaccines might become optional, much like the flu shot.

As of Sept. 19, the seven-day average of Ramapo community members testing positive on our campus was 3.17, with one student and three employees reporting positive COVID cases on that day. On both Sept. 10 and 11, 10 students each day reported positive COVID cases on campus, making that 20 people in one weekend.

On our campus it’s common to see people walking around with masks on, protecting themselves and others from these new strains of COVID. I think that, even though we all want this pandemic to be over, it’s important to remember that COVID still exists. It’s especially important to remember that it’s still easily transmittable, especially while new variants are popping up and masks aren’t always required.

I think that Ramapo College’s current policy regarding COVID and masks only being required in classrooms is understandable. I would have hoped that more students would adhere to these regulations. Unfortunately, it is common for students to walk into one of their on-campus classes and see many of their peers maskless. It’s your choice whether or not you wear your mask outside of the classroom, but I believe it’s still important for us to work together to stop the spread of COVID on our campus and wear masks in places it’s required. The virus is definitely not going away any time soon and it’s up to us to help protect our communities.