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First day of classes fields excitement, concern from students

Belmont students are returning to campus for another abbreviated semester — though many hold concerns about the continued impact of COVID-19 and the semester’s safety protocols.

“I am so excited to have the opportunity to live on campus the second semester. Obviously, the pandemic has made working and going to school quite difficult for everyone, but I am grateful to be getting a college experience of some kind,” said Arianna Pappas, a junior songwriting major.

But that excitement is tempered by worry, both for Tennessee’s recent spikes in COVID-19 cases and the potential risk faced by those attending classes in-person.

“I think the biggest concern is just that the COVID numbers across the country, and especially in Tennessee and in Nashville are so much higher than they were before,” said Connor Ostrow, a junior commercial music major.

And while COVID-19 has been on an upward trend in Tennessee for several months, Belmont’s COVID-19 protocols are opening campus access more quickly than the previous semester.

And despite her excitement to return to campus, Pappas said the possibility of extra precautions becoming necessary is worrisome.

“I am concerned about Belmont sending us home early at any point if cases on campus or in Nashville continue to rise. As much I want to take the necessary precautions, it would be a shame to be sent home,” said Pappas.

As students return back to campus, students are asked to complete a daily COVID-19 symptom tracker, but negative test results are not required to attend classes in-person.

“I think the symptom tracker is a little bit of just a PR stunt. Because we’ve seen pretty clearly the most common method of transmission, especially on college campuses has been through asymptomatic spreads,” said Ostrow.

Ostrow said the symptom tracker, which relies on self-reporting, is an imperfect way to keep an eye on potential COVID-19 threats, given that students with no symptoms may still have and transmit the virus.

“I think it runs the risk, almost like giving people a false sense of safety. Because, like, we know, you can be getting other people sick, even if you don’t feel sick yourself.”

Students are asked to seek out a COVID-19 test before coming to school, but because tests aren’t required or supplied by the university, availability will vary for students traveling to or from Nashville.

Charlotte Maracina, a junior public relations major, said this would pose a problem for students arriving for the first day of classes from out of the state — and if you get the virus on the way back from a test, it defeats the purpose of having gotten one, and puts even more people at risk.

“I understand that testing is not available in all parts of the country. I believe that while getting tested prior to arrival may help, it is kind of pointless,” said Maracina.

“I fly down to Nashville … if I were to test negative before I leave New York City to go to Nashville, there is a high probability that I will catch COVID in the airport, which I wouldn’t know until I’ve arrived at school.”

Despite the risk, though, students like sophomore accounting major Will DeBusk feel testing is an important step students should take to keep one another healthy and safe.

“I think that I think that it’s one of those times where we kind of have to rely on people’s personal responsibility, said DeBusk.

“So, if a COVID test is available to you, I think that it should be a moral obligation to take one.”

This article written by Madison Bowen.

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