At about 5 p.m. Wednesday afternoon, the GW community received an email from officials informing them of plans to hold courses remotely until at least Jan. 18 and a new deadline of Jan. 10 to receive the booster.
Though disappointing for students and professors alike, GW’s decision to make the first week of the spring semester virtual will likely prevent a 2020-esque end of school year debacle.
The return of online courses does not have to be permanent and does not necessarily translate to a repeat of March of 2020. Though many of us harken back to how we felt then, and are wary of a similar situation arising again, this decision is a sign of the University taking precautionary measures to ensure that students are fully vaccinated and boosted, COVID-free and ready to come back to class in person. Public health experts are saying that Omicron has a much higher rate of transmission than the Delta variant, but the infection is much milder. This time around, the GW community will also be both vaccinated and boosted, which gives solid protection against Omicron.
GW isn’t the only entity taking the Omicron variant seriously. Mayor Muriel Bowser unveiled a new action plan to fight the virus’ new avatar on Monday. Bowser is expanding testing sites in the District, reimposing the indoor mask mandate and emphasizing the need for all who are eligible for vaccines and boosters to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Bowser announced Wednesday that indoor venues like restaurants and bars will be required to ask patrons for proof of at least one dose of vaccination.
Other universities are also taking similar measures. Most University of California universities, Gallaudet, and Harvard universities will temporarily hold classes online at the beginning of the spring semester.
After a disheartening end to the 2020 school year, and a lack of the 2020-21 in-person school year, many of us were relieved and excited to come back to campus this year. It’s valid to feel worried and anxious at the prospect of more online classes. To some extent, we were aware of the unpredictability of a pandemic, and yesterday’s announcement confirms this unpredictability. But hopefully we don’t have to give up too much this time around.
By tightening COVID-19 restrictions, increasing expectations and incentives for D.C. residents to get vaccinated, and increasing testing resources, Bowser is indicating that the government is taking DC’s COVID situation seriously. Similarly, by mandating the booster three weeks earlier than the intended Feb. 1 deadline, and holding online courses for the first two weeks of the semester, the University shows that it is dedicated to bringing students back to campus.
Shreeya Aranake, a senior majoring in history, is the contributing opinions editor.