In-person fall semester as vaccine availibility rises

Sam Boudreau 

Senior News Writer

 

As spring embraces The College of Wooster community with warm weather and sunny days, President Sarah Bolton notified the campus community on March 10 that the College plans to welcome back all students in person for the upcoming fall semester, which will begin on August 25. Bolton wrote, “We have carefully studied the accelerating vaccine roll-out, the pandemic’s trajectory, and our own strength in using evolving public health strategies to keep the campus safe as we expand campus activities.”

Regarding the vaccine rollout, Governor Mike DeWine announced on March 16 that all Ohioans over age 16 will be eligible to get the vaccine by March 29. A week earlier, the Ohio Department of Health launched a centralized website for Ohioans to view their eligibility to receive the vaccine. To check your eligibility, visit https://gettheshot.coronavirus.ohio.gov

On March 16, Bolton wrote that DeWine’s vaccine update “is fantastic, as the expert reviews of scientific evidence show that the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are safe and very effective in preventing severe illness.”

Christopher Roche ’23 is one of the 695 Wayne County residents from the ages of 20-29 to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine as of March 16. When asked how the vaccination sign-up process went, Roche told the Voice that it was “surprisingly easy.” Roche continued, saying that “with the ‘Get The Shot’ sign-up process online that Ohio.gov has set up, it was fairly seamless. There weren’t too many obstacles that I can think of. My family and I were able to sign up and get an appointment within minutes.”

Along with Roche, only 4.72 percent of 20 to 29-year-old residents in Wayne County have received a dose of the vaccine, while only 0.28 percent of residents under 20 have started the vaccination process, according to the Ohio Department of Health.

In total, 18,901 Wayne County residents have started the vaccination process, which is 16.33 percent of the county’s total population. Since the initial rollout of the vaccine on Dec. 26, daily vaccinations in Wayne County have increased to the point where 1,252 individuals received a shot in a single day, as reported on March 11.

While more residents will receive the vaccine in the county, Ohio Health Department data shows that large segments of populations who have been eligible for the vaccine since January have not started the vaccination process. Only 44.4 percent of 65-69-year-old Wayne County residents have “started the vaccine.”

According to Bolton, many students asked whether the College will have a vaccine supply. She wrote  that “vaccines are only being supplied to the public sites around the state.” Ohio currently has 2,051 vaccine-provider locations with Wayne county having 13 administered locations. Locations in close proximity to the College, all in Wooster, include:

  • Walmart, 3883 Burbank Rd. 
  • Rite Aid Store 03028, 1955 Cleveland Rd.
  • Wooster Community Hospital, 1761 Beall Ave.
  • Marcs Pharmacy Wooster, 1799 Portage Rd.
  • Discount Drug Mart, 629 Beall Ave.
  • Wayne County Health Department, 203 S. Walnut St.

Bolton noted that College is “working on finding ways to facilitate access” and keep students informed of additional vaccine options.

Along with all students on campus for the fall, Bolton wrote that the College “anticipate[s] supporting students studying in approved Off-Campus Study programs through [the] Global Engagement Office.” With these updates, studying abroad is more likely to happen this year. One of the students planning to study abroad is Kayla Stevens ’23, who hopes to study abroad in Tokyo, Japan during the fall 2021 semester to learn about her heritage and to indulge in her love of travel. Stevens told the Voice, “Throughout the entire study abroad application process I didn’t have very high hopes and I kept reminding myself that there’s always a chance it won’t work out due to safety concerns.” Stevens “always wanted to participate in a study abroad program in college — [as] it seems like such an enriching opportunity.” When she heard news of the College supporting study abroad programs next semester, she gained hope and encouragement.

While the College community prepares for the mass-distribution of the COVID-19 vaccine, many reflect on the challenges, hardships and lessons learned from this past year. Roche, who has studied remotely due to being at high risk for COVID-19, wrote, “Honestly, I am incredibly happy that the College is opening in the fall. This year of quarantine has been really tough for me, especially without being able to see my amazing friends that I’ve made at Wooster. With that said, I am incredibly grateful that I got to spend this year with my wonderful family.”

When asked what he has learned in quarantine, Roche said that “the biggest thing I will take away from this period of my life will be to never take life for granted. Life is too precious and filled with unexpected changes to not have fun, be kind and just enjoy life for what it is. Ups and downs.”

While the plans for fall semester are not yet set in stone, a return to some level of normalcy seems probable as the country makes progress in making vaccines available to the general public.