U Community Discusses COVID-19 Safety as Campus Busies


(Banner welcoming students living on campus to the University of Utah in Aug. 2014 | Chronicle archives)

By Kailey Gilbert, News Writer


As students return back to the University of Utah campus for Fall 2o21 semester, the delta variant of COVID-19 has caused some skepticism about the safety of bringing the student population back.  The Centers for Disease Control describes this mutation as a variant that seems to spread more easily and quickly than others which may lead to more cases of COVID-19.

Healthcare strain has been a consistent issue for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to ABC4 News, the U Hospital ICU reached full capacity again on Aug. 25.

The Utah Department of Health cites that Utah alone had breached 1000 cases per day beginning on Aug. 4, adding to death counts and achieving the highest rolling seven-day average of cases since mid-February. Vaccinated people are extremely unlikely to be hospitalized, while those who have yet to receive the shot are much more at risk.

House Bill 1007, a bill that recently passed Utah legislation, “prohibits a face-covering requirement in the system of higher education and the public education system.”

This statement from the bill denies the U the ability to mandate masks upon enrollment. Sen. Evan Vickers, the House Floor Sponsor for the bill, said the bill puts masks and vaccine mandates under the same jurisdiction as all other policies declared as a state of emergency. The idea is that there is oversight and the ability for more discussion to take place.

“This bill is misinterpreted,” he said.

Carol Snyder, a parent of an incoming freshman from Elmhurst, Illinois, expressed her concerns with the new variant of the virus. With close friends and even her parents getting the virus, Snyder has extreme concerns about the delta variant.

“The more the virus spreads, the more the virus mutates, and it’s only a matter of time until the virus turns into something more impactful and harmful,” Snyder said. 

She said she is frustrated with the state government, saying the government is stepping in and making choices they shouldn’t be. Snyder said the scientific and medical communities’ hands are “tied … and I’m frustrated that lawmakers would claim to know better than the medical community.”

In addition to frustration with this, she is disappointed masks cannot be mandated and expresses fear of peoples’ rights being taken away.

“It’s a balance between personal freedom, and in this case, your personal freedom not to wear a mask affects the health and wellbeing of other people,” Snyder said. “I think that’s where [officials] must be able to step in to do some of these things at least in the short term.” 

Despite not being able to mandate masks, the U is encouraging students to follow CDC guidance of wearing them indoors despite vaccination status. Additionally, the U announced they will be requiring vaccines with more details being released in the next few days.

Lauren Banner, an employee at the U’s on-campus preschool, had a different experience with COVID-19. She and her preschool student have both contracted and suffered from the virus, with her having lasting effects that will continue to change the way she functions forever. Banner expressed hope for the pandemic to be over soon.

“Most of the people at the U are smart and getting the vaccine,” she said.

She said she is indifferent to the bill, saying that as a vaccinated person she feels safe and is glad that the school cannot mandate masks. For her, there seems to be no reason to.


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