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OU freshmen express optimism for fall semester at move-in, amid rise in COVID-19 cases

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A mother and son hug before they part ways during the OU Move-In Aug. 11, 2020.

As freshmen move into the cramped university dorms, several students said they feel their vaccinations protect them from increased COVID-19 risks on campus, though the university’s response to the delta variant has been limited. 

COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in recent weeks, bringing the 7-day case average in Oklahoma to 1,511, as of Aug. 9, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Health. The 18 to 24-year-old age group has one of the lowest COVID-19 vaccination rates, with only 45 percent of its members fully vaccinated, according to the CDC. Individuals in the 18-49 age group have also had the biggest share of COVID-19-associated hospitalizations nationwide in recent weeks, meaning young people are some of the most affected by the newest wave of the pandemic. 

Despite this, OU freshman Blake Byers said his first month on campus has felt relatively normal, though he realizes the potential for a return to virtual learning.

“Personally, because I’m vaccinated, I’m not really worried about it, because I’m in good health,” Byers, an entrepreneurship freshman, said, “but I understand how for some people, they may be worried or just cautious about it because there’s so few people vaccinated.” 

According to KOCO, 3,556,567 total vaccines have been administered in Oklahoma, and 50.7 percent of the state’s residents are fully vaccinated. 

Wyatt Pauli, a psychology freshman, said since being on campus, he’s felt sheltered from the rise in delta variant cases in other areas. He said he doesn’t believe there’s been a sense of worry around the campus about the recent spike, and as evidence of this, he added masks are only “strongly encouraged” in most university buildings

 Information studies freshman Erika Simensen said the recent rise in delta variant cases hasn’t affected her outlook on the upcoming school year. 

“I know that I’m fully vaccinated, and I’m trusting that other people will be safe,” Simensen said. “It’s college, so I don’t know if that will go very far, but I’m pretty optimistic about it.”

Nanci Bristol, Simensen’s aunt, said the fact Simensen is vaccinated gives her peace of mind, even if she’s around unvaccinated students. 

Tiberius Hutchison, an anthropology freshman, recently moved into Walker, a university dorm which typically houses 1,404 students. They said they’re unbothered by potential risk for infection in the dorms, as they’re vaccinated and don’t have a roommate. Their biggest concern is a potential return to virtual learning. 

Though Hutchison said they have faith in their RA to encourage safety on their floor, they believe the university’s response to the delta variant has been delayed. They wish the university would require masks and vaccinations, especially since it’s already offering free vaccine clinics. 

Pauli also acknowledged the risk of worsened surges of COVID-19 if more community members don’t get vaccinated. 

“I’m more on the lines of thinking other people should get the vaccine, even if they don’t think they need it personally,” he said.

Ari Fife is the OU Daily news managing editor and a senior journalism major minoring in international studies and political science. Previously, she served as the summer editor-in-chief, assistant news managing editor and a senior news reporter.

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