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To slow the spread of COVID-19, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a mask, social distancing and getting a COVID-19 vaccine.

There is an overwhelmingly positive feeling on IUP’s campus as students begin in-person classes for the first time in over a year.

Students are happy to be back on campus with their friends and classmates.

Professors are happy to see students in their classrooms again where they do not have to worry that students are sleeping or not paying attention during a Zoom meeting.

It seems that nearly everyone appreciates their traditional college experience just a little bit more now that it was taken away for so long.

As good as it feels to be back, everyone, at least in the back of their minds, has had the thought, “What if we were forced to go back online again?”

Very few want this to occur but considering the continued uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic and the Delta variant, which is ravaging parts of the country, it is hard not to have thoughts like these.

While most students enjoy being back on campus, not all students are taking the necessary precautions to ensure that this new reality will continue throughout the duration of this academic year.

Frat house basements and bars packed with students are probably the best examples of this phenomenon.

Very few students attending these venues can be found wearing a mask.

“Students really do not seem to be taking COVID-19 very seriously any longer,” Liam Gaynor (senior, management information systems) said.

“It’s not like I blame them either; it has been a very long time since we have all been together and everyone is eager to resume their college experience, but these students have to understand that their actions may have consequences that will not be fun for anybody.”

“There is so much misinformation floating around regarding this topic that many may believe that the pandemic is over or that the vaccine does no good even when that is most certainly not the case,” he said.

What good does IUP’s indoor mask mandate do if students are simply going to put themselves into these types of situations when they are not in class?

The tough answer to that question is probably no good at all.

Only 53 percent of eligible adults in Pennsylvania have been fully vaccinated.

The Delta variant is no longer just a threat for individuals who have not fully vaccinated however, as the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has recommended that all individuals, vaccinated or not, wear a mask while indoors with groups of people.

Vaccinated individuals can fall victim to this variant and, while they may not become as sick as someone who is not vaccinated, this is not always the case.

The vaccine is simply not a bullet-proof vest with regards to COVID-19, but it is currently the best defense that we have.

Despite these facts and guidance, the student population of IUP does not seem to be taking the Delta variant very seriously.

In all honesty, it is hard to blame them for engaging in this type of behavior.

We have all been itching to get back to our normal lives for many months and, until recently, it seemed as if we were on that path.

Then, vaccination rates across the country plateaued and cases of the Delta variant began to skyrocket in nearly every area of the United States.

Hospitals are reaching capacity again, doctors and nurses are reaching their breaking points, and public health organizations and medical professionals are almost begging people to wear a mask, stay away from large crowds and to get vaccinated again.

Despite this fact, life has gone back to some semblance of normalcy in recent months.

It feels that every time that we take a step forward in this pandemic, we take two steps back.

The hard reality of the above statement is that this will continue to occur until the 47 percent of eligible adults in the United States choose to be vaccinated, and until citizens choose to take the CDC’s advice.

Those who do not make these choices may be some of the loudest critics if another shutdown occurs, but they will have no one to blame except themselves.

It certainly seems as though many people desire a return to normalcy and freedom, but many of those same people seem unwilling to take the steps necessary to make that sustainable for the days, weeks, months and year to come.

Based on behaviors prevalent around the country and at IUP, another year of online classes and indoor living does not seem unlikely.

The more comfortable people become, the more their behaviors will go back to normal and, right now, normal is what we want, but it is not what we need and what is good for the public as a whole.

We need to be extra cautious, and we need to follow the advice of the CDC and medical professionals worldwide.

In short, wear a mask and get vaccinated or our “back to normal” reality may not last very long at all.

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