COVID-19 spreads as masks become optional

Holly Shaum – Staff Writer

The first weeks of the fall semester have been marked with highs and lows.
Students returned to campus to find a new dining hall but were also faced with an
outbreak of COVID-19.
As of Sept. 5, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists Wayne
County at a level of medium risk of infection for COVID-19. This comes as the
number of hospitalizations has increased in recent weeks. As of Aug. 30, there were
31 positive cases on Wooster’s campus. Due to this spike in cases, Wooster
extended its campus-wide mask mandate until Sept. 6, signaling to students and
staff that the pan-demic is not fully behind us. From Sept. 7 onwards, masks will be
optional in all spaces except for the Longbrake Student Wellness Center and on
College transportation, where they will remain mandatory. Kevin Lowry, the COVID-
19 prevention facilitator, maintained a hopeful outlook, stating that he “was
expecting about a two or three percent infection rate,” but given students returning
from across the country and the world, “the less than one percent infection rate
that we are currently seeing is pretty good.” Reflecting on the outbreak last year,
Lowry suggested that multiple factors contributed to it, including visitors from Ohio
State University, which maintained “a fairly robust [COVID-19] level” and large
events like I.S. Symposium. To prevent further outbreaks, Lowry stated that the
College would not be allowing visitors to stay overnight in residence halls or in
campus housing.
This increase in infection coincides with a related issue: the College is suing its
insurance provider for losses incurred during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Wooster joins 57 colleges and universities, including fellow Ohio institutions Denison
University and Kenyon College, in bringing forth the lawsuit. The plaintiffs seek a
declaratory judgment against the insurance company, alleging that the losses they
incurred are covered under the policy and the insurers are responsible for paying
up. Additionally, the plaintiffs claim the insurance company breached their contract
by denying coverage for their claims. The lawsuit has yet to be settled.
Looking ahead, the CDC and the White House are moving forward with plans for a
fall booster campaign centered on a new vaccine. This latest booster shot, known as
the “bivalent” booster, specifically targets the BA.4 and BA.5 variants of COVID-19,
which were not addressed by the original booster vaccines. According to the CDC,
Ameri- cans will be considered up-to-date on protection against the virus after
receiving the bivalent booster, regardless of the number of boosters received
previously. The bivalent booster will be offered from Pfizer and BioNTech for people
12 and older, as well as Moderna for adults 18 and older.

Until these new booster shots are available or COVID cases start to decrease across
Wayne County, students should continue to follow the guidance provided by the
Wellness Center and other health personnel.

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