COVID on Campus

The struggle to connect during COVID-19

Oludare Obadiya

More stories from Oludare Obadiya

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The news column “COVID on campus” posts relevant COVID-19 news every week for UWEC students.

As the leaves change color and the weather gets colder, UW-Eau Claire is about a quarter of the way through the second full school year of a worldwide pandemic. 

The number of Eau Claire students with an uploaded vaccine record was 7,746, just under 82% as of Nov. 1.

In the first week of classes this number was as low as 5,724, or 60.4%, an increase of over 20 percentage points in a little less than two months. All this information and more can be found on the UW-Eau Claire COVID-19 dashboard.

The County of Eau Claire has a vaccination rate of 55.6%, according to The Eau Claire City-County Health Department situation report from Oct. 29.

The report also noted that the vaccination rate of those ages 18-24 in the county is lower than the overall average of Eau Claire County. Black and Indigenous race groups have lower local rates as well.

COVID-19 has affected the way universities must function in a number of ways. An example of this is in the dormitories on campus, specifically the role of resident assistants.  

Zachary May is a third-year Spanish education student and also an RA in Bridgeman Hall. He offered some insight into the challenges of being an RA from last year going into this year. 

“Last year we were discouraged from going door to door to get to know our residents because of COVID, especially without a vaccine at the time,” May said. “We had to figure out how to do programming virtually, which was probably the hardest part. It’s a lot harder to do team bonding activities online.”

Felicia Duda, a third-year French and criminal justice student, is an RA as well. She reflected on the uncertainty experienced last year by first year students in the first couple weeks of the semester. 

“I feel like last year with the incoming Freshman, everything was an experiment. Once we passed the first month people were like, ‘Woah we’re actually staying here, that’s not what we expected’” she said. 

Duda also said it is mostly first year residents that have responded to COVID-19 restrictions this year. 

“I feel like there’s a little more home sickness, just because for nearly two years now we have been sitting at home in close quarters with our families,” Duda said.

This year things are slightly different than the last. Masks are still required indoors, but there is no longer a restriction on the amount of people allowed in a room at one time. This info can be found here on the UW-Eau Claire COVID-19 updates page.

RA are now also allowed to offer food to their residents as long as it is individually wrapped. 

These small changes have opened up the possibilities of residence hall events more reminiscent of what was offered before COVID.

May spoke about the event he was having on his floor that evening where he will be offering individually wrapped juice boxes.

“Tonight I’m having a Super Smash Bros Game Night,” May said. “Having capri suns or even candy is something I would not have been able to have last year, because we were encouraged to not eat in shared spaces.” 

To keep track of campus COVID policy and statistics visit the university website here.

Obadiya can be reached at [email protected]