Returning to another semester of classes amid a pandemic

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Nathalie Gomez and Flynn Pimentel enjoying the first Friday of the spring semester outside. Photo by Jordan Anders-McClain.

UNLV students are back on campus for yet another semester during the pandemic. This is officially the start of college student’s fourth full semester since we first went into lockdown during spring break of 2020, and it’s been a wild ride. 

While we prepare, both mentally and physically, for these next few months, we should take a few moments to remember a few things.

It’s okay that things don’t feel normal right now, because they aren’t normal. However, for our freshmen and sophomores, this actually is the “normal” college experience. 

Many have never taken a class in-person, met up for study groups or even had to think about graduating high school virtually. So where does this leave us now?

On the first day of the semester, Jan. 18, 2022, Clark County was up to 458K total cases. To be a tad alarmist, which is earned due to these last few years, this doesn’t seem to bode well for classes staying in-person for the rest of the semester. 

To put this number into perspective, the second-highest spike (behind this one as our number one spot) was in the second week of 2021, averaging about 2,000 cases. With the new omicron variant making numbers rise rapidly again comes the possibility of classes being switched to remote learning. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is merely an opinion, but for students who thrive in-person, it is definitely a bad thing.

It’s easy to spiral in the face of the seemingly unending pit of despair that is a pandemic. It’s depressing and lonely, living in constant fear for our family and friends, and the only thing that we can do is to just push onward. We have to keep moving forward and dealing with the blows as they come, which sounds a bit apathetic, but it’s been a hard few years.

We should take some time to recommit not only to our individual safety, but the safety of our fellow students and faculty. On our first day back, there have already been two Clery Act notices for known individuals with COVID-19, urging for even more caution to be taken among students. 

The fact is, with this insane spike in cases due to the omicron variant, it is possible we are headed into another potential lockdown. The daily average of infected persons is sitting around 4,000 people right now, compared to around 1,400 in the last week of December

If this trend continues, a lockdown is very possible, even though it’s safe to guess that there are many out there trying to put that possibility off as long as possible.

We should note that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. It’s a fair assumption that COVID-19 will never go away, but if COVID-19 becomes endemic, then we could once again begin to live “normally.” 

When a virus becomes endemic, it still spreads, but due to natural immunity through past infections, the mortality and infection rate drastically decreases. Chicken pox is considered an endemic disease. It is always around, but since vaccinations became required to go to school, cases dropped.

If we all do our part and get vaccinated, wear our masks, social distance as much as possible and sanitize often, we can reach an endemic stage of the pandemic and once again can go back to business as usual, and for some, really start living the full college experience.

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