With more vaccinated students, what will college campuses look like this fall?

Published: Jul. 22, 2021 at 4:40 PM EDT
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PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. (WCAX) - College kids return to campus in about a month. So what will the upcoming year look like during the vaccine era? I checked in with North Country colleges to find out.

“We’re kind of underway now,” SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras said.

College campuses are gearing up for incoming students and this fall semester will resemble life before the pandemic.

“Wonderful to be open again, reopen again, bringing people back, so there is like a different energy in the air,” Malatras said.

At SUNY Plattsburgh, students who are vaccinated get to walk the halls mask-free, but those who aren’t will continue the Cardinal pledge of masks on and keeping a distance of 6 feet from others. Those not vaccinated will also be in the bleachers rather than in the game, and they will be required to weekly saliva pool sampling.

“This isn’t about punishing people,” Malatras said. “This is about COVID still being out there, and the Delta variant is out there, people are still getting hospitalized, largely people who are unvaccinated.”

The chancellor says it will be exciting to see the Cardinals in flocks together once again.

“You are doing all those things that you really want to as a college student,” he said.

Over at Paul Smith’s College, the school says things will look similar to last year, just with fewer masks and more seats together in class and in the dining hall.

“A lot of the social stuff that people enjoy in college that we couldn’t do, and that will overwhelmingly be back,” said Nicholas Hunt-Bull, the provost at Paul Smith’s.

This year, the school isn’t requiring the vaccine. But they’re asking students who aren’t vaccinated to get a test before returning to campus and to follow all COVID protocols.

“We are still exploring what our policy will be for random testing,” Hunt-Bull said.

The school beat the odds last year, rarely seeing a case on campus.

“I know that the policy we did was sensible but also being in the North Country where, you know, we never really had a serious outbreak. I’m sure that was a factor to our success,” Hunt-Bull said.

Because of that low COVID rate, the school saw a high number of transfers by students who wanted to log off virtual learning and be there in person. Those numbers continue to rise this semester and Hunt-Bull credits the school’s location as a major reason.

“We have very positive enrollment numbers for the fall and I have no doubt that the belief, which is correct, that it’s a very safe place to be in a frightening time,” he said.

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