The COVID-19 pandemic altered our lives nearly two years ago. Today, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact our future. The Delta variant created harsher restrictions last year as visitation, Step Sing and other functions were canceled across Samford’s campus. Outside Samford’s iron gates, church services moved online, restaurants retreated to take-out only and some schools continued remote learning.
Beyond Birmingham, the pandemic caused canceled flights, closed borders and permanently changed lives forever. Today, the Samford community is picking up the pieces of last year while also trying to navigate the next few months as the new COVID-19 variant, Omicron, surges. COVID-19 numbers were relatively low in the fall due to the increase of vaccines, warmer weather and an increased number of those with antibodies in their systems.
The Center for Disease Control reported over 67 million cases in the United States over the last 30 days. This quickly changed during the holiday season as the Alabama Department of Public Health recorded an exponential increase of COVID-19 cases. On a more local level, according to The New York Times COVID tracker, the seven-day average for COVID-19 cases in Birmingham, Alabama, is around 1,500 cases. There has been a steep increase of cases over the past two months since Nov. 6. As of Jan. 20, there have been 267 positive cases reported at Samford in the past week, according to the Samford COVID-19 dashboard.
This increase in cases has affected the internal operations of Samford University. Administrators reinstated the mask mandate, which requires everyone to wear masks indoors. If students are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, they are asked to report their symptoms to University Health Services who will help assess them and make arrangements for testing. In the event that Samford has to return to remote learning, professors have been asked to include a separate section in their syllabi to prepare students for different situations.
For some students, the reality of the Omicron variant has impacted their first week of school. Samford student Emily Jimenez reflected on her first week of school after testing positive for COVID-19. Jimenez has been safely quarantining and receiving notes from fellow classmates, but is eager to start her semester in the classroom as soon as possible.
“This has definitely felt like the craziest first week of school yet, even though I’m not even on campus!” Jimenez said. “It was a surprise to test positive and spend another week at home, but thankfully professors have been so accommodating and I’ve been able to keep up with schoolwork.”
Anyone with concerns or questions relating to COVID-19, are asked to email Covid19health@samford.edu or refer to the Samford COVID-19 protocols page at https://www.samford.edu/emergency/information/coronavirus/protocols.