Glory Reitz—Staff Writer
This past semester, Dordt University’s students attended their classes with minimal COVID-19 restrictions. The university has not required mask wearing and social distancing since April 5 and the COVID-19 task force has not conducted campus-wide contact tracing since the spring semester.
During that spring, the university recorded 22 positive COVID-19 cases among students and placed students into quarantine 139 times. This fall, according to Student Health and Counseling Director Beth Baas, the university recorded 42 positive COVID-19 cases among the student body. Since only the roommates of these students were contact traced, 48 of these students were quarantined, while the other 33 were vaccinated and not required to isolate.
According to the New York Times, as of Dec. 7, 39 percent of Sioux County residents have received the COVID-19 vaccination. At Dordt, 35 percent of full-time, undergraduate students have reported to Student Health their receiving of the COVID-19 vaccine. On Sept. 10, The Diamond reported that 46 percent of this demographic had received “at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccination.” Notably, the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines require two doses for full protection against the virus.
Aaron Baart, chief of staff, has led the Dordt’s COVID-19 containment efforts this semester. He said it’s difficult to produce an exact number of vaccinated students, because some are vaccinated off-campus and are not required to report their status to Dordt.
At the beginning of the semester, the university asked students to provide proof of vaccination, proof of COVID-19 antibodies, a positive COVID-19 test from the past 90 days, or a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus. Next month, when students return to campus from Christmas break, such documentation will not be required, as announced in a Dec. 8 email from Robert Taylor, dean of students.
Though Dordt has urged but not required students to receive a COVID-19 vaccination, Baart encourages unvaccinated students to receive a COVID-19 vaccine. He also acknowledges the policy is subject to change.
“Six weeks from now the world could be a different place again,” Baart said. “It’s always changing.”
Kendra Oostenink, a sophomore, appreciates her university’s ability to “meet, revise, and assess the situation as it develops.” She also felt that the administration provided extensive COVID-19 information at the beginning of the semester with minimal follow-up. Oostenink doesn’t think students need constant notifications about on-campus COVID-19 containment, but she would have liked a greater accessibility of information.
“I think the thing that’s the most interesting is the fact that it’s not talked about, but it’s still happening,” Oostenink said about the pandemic. “Last year, when we were in the thick of it, we had the weekly updates and stuff… but this semester there really hasn’t been any information unless you know the people.”
Joya Breems, a sophomore received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at Dordt’s vaccine clinic in April. The next day, she and many others missed class because of its side effects. But Breems also breathed a sigh of relief because she felt safe from the virus and not a risk to those around her.
Then, right before Thanksgiving break, Breems began to feel unwell. She got tested for the coronavirus and came up positive for COVID-19. She quarantined in her parents’ basement over the holiday. There, she grasped the complexity of handling the pandemic. Breems believes in the efficacy of vaccinations, but is grateful that Dordt no longer requires masks.
“Masks are awful,” Breems said. “They’re like a visual thing. And if you are going to separate people into categories based on certain things… it’s a lot easier to do that with a mask than a vaccine.”
Baart also lamented the politicization of pandemic’s solutions, and how college students may make decisions about their health based on their parents’ political views.
“A good idea isn’t a good idea anymore if it comes from somebody who isn’t in your camp,” Baart said. “That’s been the saddest part to me. That people have, I think, more often reacted out of their political worldview than their biblical worldview.”