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New Year, New Variant: Is Purchase Prepared for Delta?

By Robyn Graygor

Mariyah Harvey (on right), a freshman, and friend Stephanie Ilagorre (on left) enjoying a break on the Mall (Photo by Robyn Graygor)

Horror stories of colleges plagued with cases of the COVID Delta variant have rumors flowing that campuses around the country will shut down yet again. Despite the gossip, most students seem to think Purchase's COVID-19 protocol will keep campus open this school year.

It’s no secret that students of all ages were hit hard by the pandemic. Grace Wenner, a first-year journalism student, spoke of friends at SUNY Fredonia who were forced to quarantine within the first few weeks of moving in.

“I knew a couple people at Fredonia who had to quarantine for a while because they got COVID,” said Wenner.

Another student, Mariyah Harvey, a first-year playwriting/screenwriting major at Purchase, has a friend at a college in North Carolina whose entire suite has gotten the virus.

“Every day I look at the news and someone else is dying, so I’m very worried,” said Harvey.

Kristopher Ortiz, a senior, relaxes in the North Arcade enjoying the favorable weather (Photo by Robyn Graygor)

While there are some fears looming around the possibility of another year being engulfed by COVID-19, the student body does not appear to be worried. Samuel Spione, a sophomore anthropology major, was on campus last year during the worst of the pandemic. He was faced with navigating his first year in isolation, and is looking forward to a normal college experience.

“I would feel safe on campus even if I wasn’t vaccinated,” he said. “I think the safety precautions on campus go even farther than they need to.”

This confidence in the community is shared among many students, like Kristopher Ortiz, a senior history major, who feels that Purchase is prepared for any challenges it may face. Ortiz was almost entirely off campus last year because of online classes and was pleasantly surprised by the new COVID-19 protocols.

“There weren't any hand sanitizers at all before, only in the bathrooms. You see them everywhere now,” said Ortiz. “You see people running around telling you to pull up your mask inside. It’s always better to be overprotective than not protective at all.”

Georgina Arroyo, a first-year MFA, spent last year teaching virtual classes at the New York Public Library. Arroyo just recently arrived on campus, and already feels safe with the protocols in place. She also encourages students to get outside when socializing to lessen the risk of outbreaks.

Samuel Spione, a sophomore, seated at the outdoor tables, finds some shade on this sunny day (Photo by Robyn Graygor)

A recent town hall meeting gave a behind-the-scenes look into what it takes to keep students comfortable during the pandemic. Betsy Aldredge, the assistant director of public relations, reassured students of how prepared Purchase is to tackle this virus.

"Even before COVID-19 happened here we had an emergency response meeting and went through all the steps necessary in case it became a pandemic,” said Aldredge.

Michael Kopas, the director of facilities and capital planning, furthered this claim by announcing the installment of the EPA suggested MERV 13 air filters around campus.

Students believe Purchase’s success in containing the virus will come not only from protocol, but from values held by the community as a whole. Spione said he thought the political beliefs of many students will likely result in a healthier campus.

“I think that it’s also a generally liberal campus which means that people are just kind of more inclined to listen to people telling them to obey certain things for safety reasons,” he said.

Grace Wenner, a freshman, smiling on a sunny day before attending Wednesday’s Town Hall meeting (Photo by Robyn Graygor)

Today, a stroll through campus reveals a gleeful scene of students mingling on benches, laughing over lunch, and dancing through the quad. The atmosphere is light and welcoming, utopian compared to the last two semesters. Whether students' predictions will remain true, or Purchase will suffer a similar fate as last year, that remains to be seen.

“There used to be tons of people just sad, heads down, and you’re just like ‘Wow, why is everybody so sad?’” said Ortiz. “But now, people don’t look sad no more.”



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