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College students must get COVID vaccine, but does that mean ‘normal’ on campuses?

Students are headed back to college this week, as campuses work toward a return to normal with in-person learning, events, and campus life. COVID-19 vaccines are going to play a big role in whether that effort is successful or not.

Expectations are changing though, as the delta variant of COVID modifies expectations. Lecture halls, sporting events, and even basic gatherings could be canceled if cases surge.

Here’s the problem: SUNY officials used the prospect of ‘normal’ as a reason to get vaccinated. Most have realized since that despite vaccination, COVID-19’s delta variant does not care about that status.

Finger Lakes Partners (Billboard)

“Don’t find yourself stuck in your dorm room, while your friends meet up at a campus sporting event or live music performance,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said in July. “Don’t pass up your shot at normalcy.” A 30-day Vax Challenge was launched to get students vaccinated.

Less than a month later, he said that the COVID-19 vaccine would be required for all students and staff- otherwise needing weekly testing for the virus.

“Either we do our civic duty to get fully vaccinated, or we risk sliding back into rising cases, hospitalizations and fatalities as COVID-19 variants spread in mostly unvaccinated populations,” Malatras said in early-August.

Private colleges have vaccine rates around 70%. Meanwhile, some SUNY schools have vaccine rates over 80- and even 90%.

At this point though, even if these universities can get to 100% vaccination- it doesn’t mean pre-pandemic normal will be coming.



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