The spring semester will be over in less than two weeks — leaving many students, parents and faculty members concerned about the level of safety on campus - yet optimistic about the prospects for fall semester being in-person. President Darryll Pines announced that the University of Maryland is planning to have in-person classes for the fall semester, provided that everyone does their part to stay safe.
The University System of Maryland Chancellor Jay A. Perman issued a COVID-19 vaccination mandate for the fall semester, “requiring that all eligible students, faculty, and staff who will be on our Maryland campuses this fall be vaccinated against COVID.” This mandate, along with various opportunities for getting vaccinated, leaves little room for people to not get vaccinated.
In addition to the vaccination mandate, members of the campus community might also be expected to wear masks and participate in daily symptom monitoring while on campus next fall. Residence halls will also be open to allow both vaccinated students and those who need to be in isolation or quarantine the space to live safely. Yet, the vaccine mandate is causing some friction among UMD students.
“I was going to get [the vaccine] anyway but I don’t like that it’s now required, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” Ori Wilson, a sophomore dietetics major said.
Some students cited uncertainty about the effects of the vaccine on people for the long term.
“This vaccine just shouldn’t be forced, especially something that’s different from any other vaccine,” sophomore microbiology major Kady Trevino said.
This month alone, UMD has encouraged multiple programs that aim to get more people in the community vaccinated. On campus vaccination opportunities through Safeway Pharmacy have become available to students, faculty and staff at the Riggs Alumni Center, as well as ‘University Days,’ where campus community members could get a COVID-19 vaccine at the Greenbelt Metro Station.
The vaccine mandate comes with the intention of keeping infection rates low so that students can safely return in-person and avoid the potential of another outbreak. According to the COVID-19 dashboard, as of April 29, the University of Maryland has a 0.2% positivity rate. The dashboard also says that 46.8% of people self-reported that they had been fully vaccinated against the virus. These numbers have contributed to the generally positive results that the university has experienced in mitigating the effects of the virus so far.
Some students believe that the vaccine mandate is a reasonable expectation for UMD students.
“I think the mandate is a good idea,” freshman letters and sciences major Yacelin Montano said. “I’d feel a lot safer, especially considering the spike of cases earlier this school year.”
Even though the vaccine mandate is stirring up mixed feelings, it is key if students want to return in-person classes for fall 2021. UMD is committed to keeping students healthy and safe and it is now the students’ turn to step up to the plate.