Kincart: “Back to Normal” Won’t Happen This Spring


Wellness center on campus, Thursday is operating virtually due to COVID. (Photo by Maya Fraser | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sydney Kincart, Print Chief, Opinion Writer


University of Utah healthcare workers began receiving the COVID-19 vaccine on December 15. Because the University Hospital cares for a large percentage of Utah’s COVID-19 patients, it is among the first hospitals to get the vaccine. Four other hospitals in Utah also received shipments of the vaccine and are distributing it to their employees.

Although this vaccine will protect against the illness and help end the pandemic, it won’t do so immediately. Most people won’t receive the vaccine for a few months, given its limited supplies and high demand. We must remember that even though there is a vaccine, the Spring 2021 semester won’t be a return to normal. Students still need to take precautions against spreading the virus.

Both of the vaccines authorized and recommended by the CDC are administered in two doses. According to ABC News, “Pfizer’s second dose comes three weeks after the first, and Moderna’s comes after four weeks.” Full protection likely won’t occur until two weeks after the second shot. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, 75% to 85% of people need to have the vaccine in order for our communities to reap the benefits of herd immunity. He predicts that the vaccine will be available to the general public will by the end of March or early April, so the beginnings of herd immunity may be achieved by late spring or early summer.

Clearly, this is a multi-step process with many factors at play. The production, administration and protection of the vaccine all take time. The timeline of vaccine administration will continuously change. Students, faculty, administration and other workers on campus may not be beneficiaries of the vaccine until late into the semester at the very earliest — so we must operate with the pandemic in mind as we progress through the spring semester. In order to do so safely, the University of Utah has made changes from their typical semester.

Throughout the spring, all Housing and Residential Education residents will be required to take weekly COVID-19 tests. This will help the U better monitor the spread of the virus on campus. I was only required to take a COVID-19 test once last semester when I moved to campus, so this is an improvement. Weekly testing will make the campus safer for students and alleviate some uncertainty around carrying and spreading the virus. Additionally, another two-week “circuit breaker” will take place from March 1-14 in order to mitigate transmission of the virus, and like last fall, classes will be offered in hybrid, in-person and online formats.

As school leaders make more organized efforts to control the virus, outbreaks will be less likely to occur. Because of the extra testing, students will hopefully feel the effects of the virus less than we did this fall. However, the U can only do so much at an administrative level. The pandemic has emphasized the importance of personal responsibility in protecting the health of others — and it is more important this semester than ever. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it will come more quickly if we do our part.

We need to be receptive to the university’s efforts by prioritizing weekly testing in our schedules and using the circuit breaker to limit contact with others. We should wear masks, social distance, wash our hands regularly and avoid touching our faces. Personal efforts like these, in addition to contact tracing resulting from increased testing, will make for a healthier semester.

Students should also limit their social circles and avoid attending large gatherings to make spreading less likely and to help with contract tracing efforts. We play a role in spreading the virus and need to do our part in limiting spread. As we do our part, we’ll inch closer to “normal.” And although nothing may ever be normal after we have collectively endured such a unique obstacle, it will be better.

Fall semester was difficult for everyone, but we made it through. Let’s use the skills and experiences we gained in the past year to help us through the remainder of the pandemic. Whether the pandemic reminded you of the value of loved ones or to take breaks from Zoom to check up on your sourdough starter, these lessons will be of equal importance this semester. As far as we’ve come, we still have several months to go before we can stop worrying about preventing the spread of COVID-19.


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