Crystal Wang ’25 is planning to major in English and History. Crystal is involved in two on-campus publications, The Flat Hat and The DoG Street Journal, as well as WM Archery and the Griffin Fechtcschule. Email Crystal at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The views expressed within are the author’s own.
Most of us are rational people, so I assume we know the severity of the omicron COVID-19 variant. In a matter of two months, it went from arriving in the United States to accounting for over 90% of all sequenced cases. It has pushed the College of William and Mary to mandate boosters for its students and renewed anxieties that this pandemic will never be over. But my life hasn’t been very affected.
All of my teachers sent out a customary email a few days before the first day of classes. It goes as follows: “Hello, how are you? How was your break? I am Professor So-and-So. You are in this class, here’s what you need to do for our first meeting.” In addition to these niceties, each professor has asked whether I would be on campus for the first day. They wanted to know whether the first week needed to be virtual in case many students caught COVID and wouldn’t be allowed on campus. All of my professors have also given us alternative ways to learn the material if we need to quarantine: recorded lectures, uploading old lectures, etc. But so far, everyone has shown up to class and, as far as I know, there has been no need to employ any of the alternative methods. Other than that first email, COVID concerns haven’t been brought up. They were acknowledged and then we moved on.
Almost 9,000 of us were invited to the Charter Day Ceremony. Kaplan Arena, with a maximum seating capacity of 11,000, could have been packed full as the student body was enticed by the cancellation of afternoon classes, free T-shirts and food. Amidst rising Covid numbers, I got an email inviting us to Golden Weekend promising free T-shirts to the first 1,150 people at the gate. They were encouraging thousands of people to come out and watch a game in an enclosed area where people would be yelling, shuffling about and perhaps even pulling their masks down to yell even louder.
It goes to show how much of a bubble that we live in. We can almost forget that there is a pandemic going on outside of the College. We can almost forget that hospitals are overflowing, people are dying and the omicron variant is spreading like wildfire. We are in an echo chamber where almost everyone is vaccinated. With over 8,000 tests administered since the second week of January, we are as of the writing of this piece at 21 active positive cases, 64 positive cases overall on campus, and 417 pre-arrival positives. The administration feels safe enough to host huge events and I presume students feel safe enough going. Otherwise, the College would not put in the effort or money to put on these events. We are free to go about our lives.
I will admit, I was shocked when the College announced on the last day of December that students and faculty who don’t upload proof of a booster by January 18th will be kicked out, i.e disenrolled or fired. I want to make it clear that I applaud this decision; I just never thought the administration would do it. But in doing so, we keep our semblance of normality. We are what happens when high vaccination rates prevail.
I think it is safe to say that I have not been very affected by the omicron variant. I can still go to my classes, the dining halls are still open, I can still go to my clubs, and I can go to all the indoor sporting events that I want. And for those who want to get drunk in a frat house with a bunch of people who want to get equally drunk, they are free to do so.
I have no idea what’s going to happen in the future of this campus. I don’t know whether we can keep this normality. But so far, we can go about our day in our pocket of vaccinated normality.