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Back to normal? Not quite, but COVID-19 tracking declines as infection rates drop 

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By Claudio Ivezaj

COVID-19 is still infecting people, and a new booster was released several weeks ago, but it appears that many people have shifted back to living life as they did before the pandemic. Few are wearing masks on campus and Grand Rapids Community College administrators stopped tracking cases months ago.

Ashleigh Carlson, 18, a student at GRCC for her first semester after high school, had this to say about the culture at GRCC: “Coming from a high school where it was shut down, to here, it seems pretty normal.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 50,017 daily new cases nationally, along with 348 deaths every day and 3,706 hospitalizations. In the state of Michigan, over the course of seven days, we are seeing 16,901 new cases, 147 deaths, and 148.86 hospitalizations. Even further, the numbers in a seven-day average in Kent County are 125.58 new cases, 12 deaths on that same average, and 12.9 admissions into hospitals.

Here at GRCC, the COVID-19 response team stopped collecting and sharing weekly COVID infection data but continues to provide occasional guidance to students and staff. GRCC Communications Director, David Murray, is one of the response team members who answered questions for The Collegiate below. 

Is GRCC tracking positive COVID cases on campus? 

“The college closely follows guidance from state and local health authorities and no longer requires students to report cases.”

Is there some place on campus for students to be tested for COVID?

“COVID testing kits have been available in the Student Life and Conduct Office in the Student Center.”

Where can students go if they have questions regarding COVID policy?

“Students can access information about the college’s ongoing COVID-19 response on the website. Look for the banner across the top.” Here’s the link.

 Is it GRCC policy for all students to be vaccinated?”

“As of fall 2021, all students (and faculty) in any of the health programs are required to be fully vaccinated for COVID, or have an approved exemption . . . Students and faculty who are in the early childhood program and work with children through the federal Head Start program also were required to be vaccinated due to a federal mandate.”

In summary, Murray had this to say to the students and faculty; “GRCC remains committed to ensuring our campus remains a safe and healthy place for all members of our campus community. For the past two years, the GRCC COVID Response Team has overseen our COVID-19 response protocols and mitigation efforts. Beginning Fall 2022, the Health and Safety Team will oversee public health disease response, awareness and mitigation. We … continue to look to local, state and federal health experts for guidance. We’ve made great progress as a campus and a community, but we continue to follow many of the practices we learned during the pandemic to keep healthy.” 

New COVID vaccine available 

Recently, the new Omicron BA.4 and Omicron BA.5 booster shots were released after being FDA approved. 

Rochelle P. Walensky, the director of the CDC, had this to say in a press release about the new booster shots: “The updated COVID-19 boosters are formulated to better protect against the most recently circulating COVID-19 variant. They can help restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination and were designed to provide broader protection against newer variants. This recommendation followed a comprehensive scientific evaluation and robust scientific discussion. If you are eligible, there is no bad time to get your COVID-19 booster and I strongly encourage you to receive it.”

The CDC has also released information pertaining to the new boosters, stating that “(The) Updated COVID-19 boosters add Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 spike protein components to the current vaccine composition, helping to restore protection that has waned since previous vaccination by targeting variants that are more transmissible and immune-evading.”

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