When COVID-19 was first discussed around campus, the world was filled with uncertainty about what to do. This uncertainty spread throughout Eckerd, and after a long hiatus from in-person classes, the 2020 fall semester began with new rules and regulations. These changes included a new protocol for testing for COVID-19 and a way to track close contacts. 

This new protocol included required monthly pool testing on campus, and a self-reporting option using the app Everbridge. This allowed students to take their health into their own hands and in turn, created a safer community. 

Later in spring semester 2021, students were given the opportunity to get vaccinated. Eckerd now boasts a 90 percent vaccination rate among students. 

“Overall, I would say our students are doing the right thing in regards to going and getting vaccinated in that it makes our community safer,” said Colby. “If our entire nation was doing the things that our students are doing in regards to vaccination rates, as a nation we would be doing a great job.” 

Along with students, the faculty and staff also have high vaccination rates. Faculty have a 94 percent vaccination rate, while staff have an 82 percent vaccination rate. Eckerd continues to push for students and staff to urge their peers into getting vaccinated, especially with the recent surge in cases due to the delta variant of COVID-19.

One notable change in Eckerd’s COVID-19 protocols is that fully vaccinated students will not be identified as close contacts if they are within six feet of a person for more than 15 minutes who tests positive for COVID-19.

“It’s like wearing a bulletproof vest,” Colby said of the vaccination. “ It doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get shot, or doesn’t mean that you're not going to get hurt if a bullet hits you, but you are less likely to be seriously injured.”

However, as the delta variant began to sweep through Florida with the state’s anti-mask mandate legislation, further reversal of certain COVID-19 protocols had to be put on hold, much to the dismay of incoming students. 

“We want to make sure to be cautious going forward with the delta variant and what was happening [in Pinellas County],” says Colby, “We don’t want to get here and have huge flare ups and end up having to tighten restrictions, no one wants that.”

Residence Coordinator for Community Health Nathan Vath is working on making on campus quarantine rooms more comfortable for students who do catch COVID-19. Last year, an article in The Current discussed a lack of food, maintenance and other issues in their isolation rooms. 

While quarantine is an inherently uncomfortable thing, Eckerd has done what it can to make it as good for students as possible. Residence Coordinator for Community Health Nathan Vath has done what he can to make a student’s quarantine stay as comfortable as it can be.

“We definitely made some improvements this year,” Vath said. “I restock each room kind of like an Airbnb and put some snacks and meals in them. If for some reason something goes wrong, we would first address it, but they also have access to things like mac and cheese and soups and snacks.”

Eckerd is still working to get back to a normal state, but until then they urge students to take it into their own hands to move the school forward toward normalcy.

“If you are unvaccinated or are symptomatic, get tested,” Colby said. “Campus is in a good spot right now and we’re slowly going to move out of this delta variant and probably into this new normal.”

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