The entirety of last year was spent caring for the greater good and being hyper aware of the impact individuals had on their surroundings due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Classes were online, many students weren’t allowed to access campus, social gatherings were strictly prohibited and masks were required everywhere. We were living in a distorted simulation, and it was, without a doubt, an extremely difficult year.
Eventually, things started to look up.
This past spring, the vaccine rollout picked up speed. Slowly, but surely, college professors and students became eligible for the vaccine and we began to feel a return to normalcy on campus.
Lehigh announced on April 21 that it would require COVID-19 vaccines for all students at the beginning of this semester. This decision made it possible for students to safely return to campus and have the college experience we had longed for.
But being vaccinated doesn’t make us invincible. It doesn’t make us any less responsible for holding ourselves accountable and doing our part to protect those in our immediate surroundings.
The threat of the Delta variant is still a pressing issue for the community that we reside in, even though it hasn’t led to extreme restrictions on campus.
Despite the vaccine requirement, there was still an outbreak of covid-19 at the beginning of the semester. According to Lehigh’s COVID-19 dashboard, there have been 366 reported cases among students since Aug. 9.
While Lehigh’s on and off campus housing take up a good portion of the South Side, there are also local residents and families that live here. It is just as much their community as it is ours.
Right next to our campus is Broughal Middle School and Lehigh Valley Children’s Community Center. These young, impressionable children, as well as their parents and teachers, are right next to us every day.
We have to be aware of the impact that we may have on our neighbors as students comb the streets of East 5th looking for the next party to attend, or walk into local businesses maskless.
Yes, a good year-and-a-half of our college experience was essentially taken from us because of the virus. Yes, it’s normal to want things to go back to the way they used to be. Yes, it’s expected we are craving for our Lehigh experience to be as incredible and enjoyable as it used to be.
But just as much as we’ve been hurt by it, many more have been hurt by it too. Closing the doors on the pandemic requires everyone to do their part until the very end.
It’s important to focus on how much we’ve gained this year compared to last year, but let’s also not take these opportunities for granted. There’s always the chance we could lose it all again if we don’t act appropriately.
We’re still in a pandemic, so we should still make it a priority to think beyond ourselves and look out for our South Bethlehem community.