Students remain cautiously optimistic for spring amidst Omicron variant

Students remain cautiously optimistic for spring amidst Omicron variant

With pre-arrival testing protocols, mandatory COVID-19 boosters and flu shots, students will resume in-person classes for the spring semester.
Published: January 24, 2022
SU COVID Testing at Dome 1/24
Students enter the Stadium to complete their pre-arrival check-in and testing.

Syracuse University students returned Monday to begin the spring semester in person amid rising cases of the Omicron variant. 

The commencement of classes comes a week later than originally scheduled, an announcement the University made on December 22 in an email to students and faculty. The one-week delay came in addition to SU’s requirement that all students receive a COVID-19 booster and flu shot prior to arriving on campus.

According to architecture sophomore Weixia Luo, the University’s booster requirement, as well as pre-arrival testing protocols, made her feel more safe returning to campus. Luo said that she is grateful to be fully in-person for another semester, particularly given her area of study and the technical aspects of architecture courses.

Prior to returning to campus, students were required to submit either a PCR test taken up to 72 hours before their arrival or an at-home antigen test immediately before traveling. Upon arrival, on-campus students checked in and completed arrival testing at the Ensley Athletic Center, while off-campus students followed the same procedure at the Stadium. 

Rob Sweeney, a member of the event staff at the Carrier Dome, said that more and more students have been completing their arrival testing as the first day of classes neared. According to Sweeney, over 1,000 students checked in and did their pre-arrival test on Sunday. 

On Monday, Sweeney said students began lining up outside the testing center at 9:30 a.m. to complete their pre-arrival testing and check-in, 30 minutes before it opened at 10 a.m. 

“It works pretty smoothly,” Sweeney said. “We’ve got almost 17,600 students and right now they all have to come through here.”

Environmental biology freshman Katie Laparne completed her pre-arrival check-in and testing on Monday at the stadium. Laparne said her check-in went smoothly, however, she was worried to see little to no social distancing as students waited in line. Despite this, she said she is hopeful the arrival protocols and enhanced testing will allow students to remain in person. 

Policy studies sophomore Ryleigh Lenning said she is less optimistic about the spring semester given the emergence of new variants. As a commuter, Lenning said she is concerned with the repercussions of bringing thousands of students back to campus for the Syracuse and Onondaga County community. 

“I know Syracuse is doing their best with precautions, but I don’t think it’s enough,” Lenning said. “I work in retail, so public-facing, and we’re struggling to keep staff, so I can’t imagine inviting thousands of students back here will improve that situation at all. Even if they’re testing there’s only so much you can do.”

As a Resident Advisor, African American studies and social studies education senior Torian Clarke said she was tasked with checking residents’ pre-arrival tests if they arrived outside of the 8 a.m. – 9 p.m. time frame that the Ensley check-in site was open. According to Clarke, residents were not permitted to enter their dorm until they provided documentation of their pre-arrival test.

“I wish Ensley had longer hours just for the RAs sake because we were checking PCR tests, and I’m not a nurse, I’m a student,” Clarke said. “…You know, you sign up for a position and you don’t expect to be checking medical documents, but I guess that’s everyone’s change in their role with COVID.”

According to Sweeney, having worked at the Carrier Dome for over 33 years, he has seen the University adapt and roll out testing as the pandemic evolves. He hopes that students can remain on-campus and in-person this semester. 

“I don’t want to see outbreaks,” Sweeney said. “If we get so many cases we’ll have to go remote, and I don’t want to see that. With [students] and staff it’s well over 20,000 [people] so it’s pretty tough to contain.” 

According to SU’s COVID-19 Dashboard, as of January 24, there were 76 new cases of the virus, bringing the total active case count to 199, 120 of which are students. 

In his 2022 Winter Message to the University Community, Chancellor Kent Syverud spoke to what the spring semester will look like in the face of the ongoing pandemic. 

“Despite the pandemic impacting every aspect of our operations, we persevered and succeeded this past semester, but each semester has presented different challenges … We will continue to persevere and succeed by putting science first and being flexible and patient as COVID-19 evolves from a pandemic to an endemic illness,” Syverud said. 

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is a Magazine, News, and Digital Journalism and Political Science senior and one of the Lead News Producers for The NewsHouse.