Photo Illustration by Tim Wagner

Puja Thapa
Administrative Executive Editor

Fully-vaccinated people can now visit with other fully vaccinated people indoors without wearing masks or physical distancing, according to Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People updated by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on March 8.

Further, fully vaccinated people can visit with unvaccinated people from a single household, who are at low risk of contracting COVID-19, indoors, without wearing masks or socially distancing. Fully vaccinated people also have the option to refrain from quarantining and testing for COVID, following a known exposure if asymptomatic, as suggested by the CDC.

Keene State senior majoring in early childhood and public health Kim Kalis thinks that the CDC guidelines are interesting. “I’ve always been taught, and learned, that vaccinations help but it doesn’t stop everything. Because there’s all different kinds of strands. And like, I just think [back] to the flu every year: just because you get the shot doesn’t mean you won’t necessarily fully get the flu,” Kalis said.

KSC senior and nursing major Lauren Johnson echoed Kalis’s opinions. Johnson said, “I think that everyone should still wear a mask. Because, people think that the vaccine is a cure if you get it but that’s not true, because it’s just your immune system. And it’s trying to prevent you from getting it by giving you the antibodies. But people think that getting it will just make you prone to not getting it.”

KSC first-year architecture major Jared Wile said that it was good to think about normalcy. He said, “I think it might be a little bit too soon, just given the kind of circumstances of the general public, but I mean, they obviously know a lot more of it than I do. But I think it’s a good sign.”

On March 11, an email sent out by Dean of Students Gail Zimmerman stated, “Even if you’re fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you are still required to be tested twice per week, and you will need to quarantine if you’re exposed to the virus.”

Nurse practitioner Beth Fries, who is also directing the health services side of the Wellness Center this year, said, “I think different colleges are doing it differently.

But I feel like throughout the whole year, so far with COVID, this campus has been pretty conservative, trying to keep the numbers down as much as we can.”

She said that KSC falls under the “congregate settings” category which has influenced KSC’s decision.

According to CDC, fully vaccinated residents of non-healthcare congregate settings should continue to quarantine for 14 days and be tested for SARS-CoV-2 following an exposure to someone with suspected or confirmed COVID-19.

Wile said, “I think it’s good to see the college taking their own precautions, just to make sure that we were all here in-person for the semester.”

Fries said, “If we start getting weeks where we have zero people testing positive, then we probably would loosen up our standards a little bit.” She further added, “The more we can vaccinate people, the better and the quicker everything will loosen up. I’m sure people know that..” Fries recommended students to go to vaccines.nh.gov, to see if they qualify for vaccinations and to plan ahead when they want to get vaccinated and if they want to get vaccinated in New Hampshire or their home state.

Fries also mentioned that the Owl Athletic Complex at 110 Kriff Road is now a vaccination site where New Hampshire National Guard is giving vaccines. You can learn more about the vaccination site on the Equinox’s March 4 issue. Fries said, “[It’d be] nice for Keene State students to be able to enroll through vaccines.nh.gov and then when they get an appointment, they can just walk over to Kriff Road to get it. I am also reaching out to Walgreens just to see if they happened to get a vaccine sooner, you know, could they come on campus and give it but I think that’s unlikely, but I will keep trying to look into that possibility.”

Nursing major Johnson, who is getting vaccinated soon ,thinks that it is a good idea for students to get vaccinated as it might lower down the spread with the given rise on COVID cases among college students.

Kalis, a student-teacher, is getting vaccinated herself soon. She agrees that the students should get vaccinated when they can. “I think because we are kind of like the spreaders of it. So depending on what you do for a job or who’s in your family, I think it’s smart for the ones that are kind of protected so that we’re not putting others in harm’s way. Like, for me, for example, I work with a young girl whose immune [system] is compromised, and because she has deficiencies, there’s not enough testing about the vaccine of what it would do to her. So like, I would get vaccinated to keep her safe because she can’t get the vaccine herself. So I think it’s really important as young healthy individuals, like we think of the community as a whole,” Kalis said.

Fries recommended students who have been vaccinated to upload their results to health services, so that they can keep track of who’s been vaccinated. She encouraged the students to call the Wellness Center if they have any questions about uploading their vaccination records. She added, “I’m hoping to hopefully have some incentives for the fall for people that do get vaccinated, so, but really just knowing that it’s going to make all of our lives easier, the higher percentage of people that are vaccinated will make a big difference.”

Fries said that nobody knows exactly how many numbers or percent of vaccinated students should be there for the college to start loosening up. As for now, Fries said, “We are going to continue surveillance testing for everyone, even when you’ve been vaccinated. So you know, that’s just part of that congregate setting, we just want to pick up as many cases as we can. The other reason we’re being a little cautious is because of the variance…”

Puja Thapa can be contacted at:
pthapa@kscequinox.com

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