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Students Are On Edge As Schools Reopen Amid Delta Surge

Sarah spent the pandemic living on campus in a dorm and attending hybrid classes (a mix of in-person and Zoom instruction). She says she chose that route because she knew it would be more difficult to succeed in her studies if she wasn’t learning partially in person. As the Hofstra student body returns to campus while cases of the Delta variant continue to surge, Sarah is worried that some students may see their vaccination status as a free pass. “I fear the idea that once you get the jab, you can go back to normal,” she said. “We still need to be careful and cognizant.”

Vaccinated people can still contract COVID-19, though their chances are significantly reduced. According to data collected by NBC News, only .08% of more than 164 million people vaccinated since January have contracted the virus in the U.S. And if a vaccinated person does contract COVID, they are much less likely than an unvaccinated person to end up with severe symptoms resulting in hospitalization or death. “The vaccines were designed to keep us out of the hospital and to keep us from dying,” Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert, told WebMD. “They’re even more successful than we anticipated.” Still, the risk of infection and transmission to those who aren’t vaccinated is significant.

Sarah said her main concern isn’t getting COVID herself, but that an outbreak would result in campus shutting down again. Although school is slated to begin in a few weeks in person, Sarah said the pandemic has robbed her of her ability to be certain of anything. After all, she wasn’t expecting that when she was sent home from school for two weeks in March 2020, COVID would go on to kill millions of people worldwide and she would be out of school for over a year. “I don’t have any expectations because everything has just been so consistently chaotic,” she said. Going into the fall semester, she’s excited for a return to normal college rhythms: living in a dorm, seeing friends, talking to professors, attending club meetings.

Gold said these desires aren’t surprising, as some students have likened the pandemic to “putting their college on pause. They are just waiting to press play, which with Delta can be longer and longer away. The longer it lasts, the more mental health difficulties I can imagine we will see in this group.”

In Los Angeles, Delilah Brumer is headed into her junior year of high school. This semester will be her first time in a school building since March 2020. Students and staff at Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) are required to get a negative COVID test before returning to school. During the school year, students and staff will also be tested weekly regardless of vaccination status. A LAUSD representative confirmed to Teen Vogue that students are not required to be vaccinated but are required to wear masks while on campus.

Even with the anxiety of the Delta variant hanging over her, Delilah is excited to go back to school. “I know there’s still some risk but I feel like I can’t be home any longer. I just wanna be in school. They could make me get tested every day and I’d still be happy.” Her biggest fear, she said, is that school will close again. She doesn’t think she can handle getting her hopes up only for them to be dashed again. Her wish is simple: to be a high schooler and to be able to enjoy everything that entails. “I wish people knew that it’s more than just missing academics,” Delilah said. “It’s more than that. It’s not being able to see each other in person; it’s the lack of clubs and sports. It’s a whole community we’re missing out on.”

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