Photo courtesy: KFuhlert, Pixabay
In an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, Calvin has implemented a new set of mask, vaccine and testing requirements.
Students are not required to get vaccinated, but Sarah Visser, chair of the COVID Response Team, told Chimes that as of Sept. 3, nearly 84% of the student body was either fully vaccinated or in the process of becoming fully vaccinated. Non-vaccinated students must pay for weekly COVID tests. All students must wear masks whenever indoors, except while in dorm rooms or apartments, or when eating. These rules have drawn both support and criticism from the student body since they were announced on Aug. 11.
“We are compelled that the vaccine is evidence of God’s creativity on display in the scientists [who developed it],” Visser wrote to Chimes. “We also recognize that we are an institution that serves a diverse range of constituents, and we know that there are some in our community who have not reached the same conclusion as we have about the COVID-19 vaccination.”
Students who chose not to get the COVID-19 vaccine were required to fill out an “Acknowledgement of COVID Non-Vaccination” form before the start of the semester. They will also be required to pay for weekly COVID testing, which costs $15 per test.
The COVID Response Team sent out reminder emails on Aug. 26 to students who had not yet filled out the non-vaccination form or submitted proof of vaccination. “We have received a small number of emails this week that indicate a disagreement with the act of signing the form itself,” the message read. “Unfortunately, NOT filling out the form is not an option. , lose your preferred slate of classes, and possibly risk financial costs for ending your housing contract early.”
Isaac Start is one of the students who was hesitant to fill out the non-vaccination form. “Calvin is asking students to sign a paper that basically permits Calvin to discriminate against them in the form of a $15 weekly test,” he told Chimes in an email.
Visser defended the testing option as a way for non-vaccinated students to attend Calvin. “We continue to preserve a pathway to on-campus learning for those who choose not to get the vaccine (whether for medical, religious, or personal reasons). This is an allowance we are making out of respect for individual decisions on this matter.”
Visser also said that the cost of testing is fair. “Our policy allows students and employees to freely choose to opt out of vaccination as long as they are willing to bear personal responsibility for their choices,” she wrote. (However, the option not to get vaccinated does not apply to students who are studying off campus and nursing students who are doing certain clinical rotations. Furthur groups of students who are required to be vaccinated may also be announced.)
Calvin has a list of vaccines that, according to the health services website, are required for entry to the university. The list includes the polio and MMR vaccines, but not the COVID-19 vaccine. According to Visser, the COVID vaccine falls into the recommended category, along with the Influenza and Hepatitis-A immunizations. She also explained that students are allowed to opt out of required vaccines “for medical, religious, or personal reasons, so long as they acknowledge that there are certain restrictions that may apply.”
Calvin currently requires that all students, regardless of vaccination status, wear masks indoors when not in their dorm rooms or apartments, or while eating in the dining halls. (Other exceptions include being in a private office with the door closed or at a workstation more than six feet from co-workers.) This policy has also drawn diverse responses from students.
“I support Calvin’s vaccine and mask policies because they are in line with the most up to date guidance from the CDC,” said senior Isaac Spackman.
Senior Catherine Worthington supports the mask and vaccine policies, but raised concerns about the inconsistencies between the dining hall and classroom mask policies. “The dining halls are at full capacity,” she said. “Students spend a lot of time unmasked there, which is arguably less safe than being mask-less in a class because of the higher volume of people in the space.”
Emily Schellenboom, another senior, also supports Calvin’s mask requirements. “They are helping protect those who are immunocompromised and could be hurt if they caught COVID-19,” she said. “I myself know people who are unable to receive the vaccines for medical reasons and I know I feel better that we as a community, through the mask mandate, are protecting them.”
Junior Jillian Herlinger shared a similar sentiment: “Making sure that we are doing things that have been proven to keep people safe from a deadly virus … is an easy and practical manifestation of choosing to care for our neighbor above our own slight inconvenience.”
“We are assessing the situation weekly, in collaboration with local health authorities, and will keep the Calvin community updated if and when indoor masking requirements are altered,” said Visser.
Visser encouraged students with concerns about any of Calvin’s COVID policies to reach out to [email protected].