COVID fatigue eases as spring blossoms

Students and faculty reflect on the impact of COVID-19, preparing for summer travels

Many cruise ships dock in and make their way through the Puget Sound. Cruises are a popular vacation option for travelers. (Megan Siemering)

In recent weeks, a carnival cruise ship that docked in Seattle experienced an outbreak of COVID-19 cases aboard the vessel. The outbreak is a not so subtle reminder that the pandemic is still in the rearview mirror as students make plans to travel home for summer. 

Emma Wick, fourth-year communications and social justice and cultural studies major, is traveling during the summer, but says the concern for COVID-19 still exists. 

I am traveling this summer, but I am still concerned about COVID-19. One way I am trying to combat this is that I am going to continue wearing my mask throughout airports, public transportation, and indoor locations, as well as try to eat outside as much as I can,” Wick said. 

Wick stressed that she felt the university was lacking in its response to the pandemic this year. 

“I personally don’t think that the university responded as well to COVID-19 as it could have. After omicron broke out after New Year’s, I had many classmates sick, and they received little help from the university and fell behind in classes,” Wick said. “It seemed like the university kind of decided the pandemic was over when it certainly was not. I am glad that they added the Curative testing site on campus, but other than that, I am not aware of anything they did to help the situation.”

Reflecting on her college experience, Wick stated that her time at SPU went by quickly, and that the pandemic played a role in that feeling.

“As I reflect on the pandemic, I think about how fast my college experience went by. COVID-19 and the implementation of Zoom classes makes my college experience kind of feel like a fever dream, did it even happen?,“ Wick said. “As the pandemic transitions into less and less cases in Washington, I remain concerned about any more potential spikes in sickness here or elsewhere in the world and I worry about the problematic beliefs exposed by the pandemic, especially those infused with racism and distrust of science.”

Kate Cole, communications specialist for King County and Seattle Public Health, reflected on the department’s plans and efforts to combat outbreaks throughout the city. Cole explained that while tourism is a concern, the department’s focus is primarily on vaccinations, boosters, testing and guidance. 

“While tourism activities and cruise ships pose a risk for COVID transmission in King County, so do many other activities that King County residents take part in – eating in indoor restaurants, gyms, shopping, parties, etc. We want to prevent as much COVID transmission as we can in all these different venues,” Cole said. “This means we’re focusing our public health resources on supporting vaccination and boosters, testing, and guidance for prevention, as opposed to focusing our resources specifically on tourism activities.”

SPU Student Health Services reported that the university is experiencing an increase of COVID-19 cases on-campus, but that it is reflecting an increase in the community. 

“Health Services would like students to remember that the best ways to prevent the spread of infection include limiting close contacts, washing hands frequently, wearing a well fitting mask in shared spaces and isolating from others if you have any symptoms (even mild) until COVID-19 can be ruled out,” an email from SHS said.

The statement from SHS expressed gratitude for the on-campus testing services available to students at Seattle Pacific University, and requested that any students experiencing symptoms or that test positive for COVID-19 contact the office. 

“Health Services is grateful that we have Curative on campus providing easy and no-cost access to COVID-19 testing for our whole community and we encourage everyone to get tested if they have symptoms or exposures,” the statement from SHS said. “The protocol for what to do if you have symptoms, exposures or positive tests is on the Health Services website and we ask that everyone who has questions, symptoms or tests positive contact Health Services directly.”

Dr. Alissa Walter, assistant professor of history, shared some of her experiences traveling throughout the pandemic.

“When I traveled [during spring break], it was in the middle of a lot of countries changing their regulations because a lot of airlines and countries are starting to relax some of their safety precautions for COVID,” Walter said. “I chose to get a PCR test before I left even though I wasn’t required to because I didn’t know, maybe someone will require it as they’re in flux…A lot of countries around the world have run the gambit when it comes to responses to COVID.”

Walter also expressed her gratitude for the decision-making of SPU, and shared experiences of her colleagues across the country.

“I have been so thankful that as a state, as a city, as a campus, safety has always been a top concern.Students have always been gracious and flexible in a lot of less than ideal conditions, and that even now, as mandates are lifting, I have never witnessed or experienced hostility or shaming or aggression around any of the choices people make to mask or to not mask,” Walter said.

Students are encouraged to reach out to Student Health Services if they have any questions or require guidance on safety tips while traveling.