‘We’re definitely adapting’: students adjust to relaxed COVID-19 policies

Many students are maskless while they wait in line at the Starbucks located in the James Branch Cabell Library. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Varsha Vasudevan, Staff Writer 

There is a notable decrease in VCU students who are seen wearing masks in the library, classrooms and around campus as the 2022 fall semester begins. 

VCU made masks and face coverings optional indoors and outdoors on campus on March 21, according to the VCU Safety & Management website. There are also no longer physical distancing or masking requirements at events, according to the website. 

Freshman accounting student Sylvie Bowman said they believe VCU is attempting to return to normalcy through more relaxed COVID-19 policies. 

“It’s not like COVID[-19] is that much of a danger anymore, but it is still a virus, and we are still in a pandemic,” Bowman said. 

Bowman said they didn’t feel as though they are missing out on any college traditions or experiences due to the pandemic so far in their freshman year. 

“I would say it’s pretty normal, the college life, except for wearing masks occasionally, but that’s a precaution you take if you want to be safe,” Bowman said. 

Bowman said institutions such as VCU have kept the more “convenient” outcomes of the pandemic, like implementing more technology into education.

“We’re definitely adapting, but I don’t think it’ll ever go back to the way it was before COVID[-19],” Bowman said. 

Bowman said it was “a little weird” that VCU no longer required masks, but students could still choose to wear them.

“At the same time, teachers can also make a policy and say, ‘you have to wear a mask in my class,’” Bowman said. “I think that’s completely valid.” 

Students walk through the Compass on Sept. 6. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

The health risks and impacts of COVID-19 have significantly reduced due to the implementation of the vaccine and other medical aids; however, the virus is still considered an “ongoing public threat,” according to the website.

As of Sept. 1, there were 40,527 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Richmond City, according to the Richmond City Health District.

Currently, VCU strongly encourages receiving COVID-19 vaccination and booster shots and offers free COVID-19 testing on campus to its students and employees, according to the VCU Safety and Management website

Student organization VCU CHAARG, Changing Health, Attitudes and Actions To Recreate Girls, ambassador Izzy Gracias stated the club hosted weekly exercises and events for members. 

CHAARG is following VCU COVID-19 guidelines and currently does not allow members that tested positive for COVID-19 to come to events until they test negative, according to Gracias. 

I do think things are returning to normal, but it’s been so long since we’ve had normal that normal is being redefined,” Gracias stated.

Students study in Grace E. Harris Hall. Photo by Kaitlyn Fulmore

Freshman health services student Tobi Ojo said VCU should continue to emphasize the severity of COVID-19, but not enforce a mask mandate on campus in case it caused division among students. 

“If you don’t feel comfortable with someone having their mask, rather than trying to berate them for it, maybe pursue something else,” Ojo said. “I’m just concerned about the pushback with it. It gets annoying.” 

Ojo said masks should be required if a student or class was in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19. 

There is a sense of normalcy returning to VCU and was excited and nervous to begin their first semester at VCU, Ojo said. 

“I do like the VCU culture of being able to add to the diversity and inclusion here,” Ojo said. “It’s like being part of a legacy.” 

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