By Brooke Greene / Editor in Chief

Last spring, Hutchinson Community College students, faculty, and staff were told what they could expect on campus this fall, in terms of COVID-19.

As stated last spring from Hutchinson Community College’s official website, a COVID update was posted for the college on May 25.

“Effective immediately, in light of the recently announced change in guidance from the State of Kansas and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Hutchinson Community College is modifying its current position regarding face coverings.

HutchCC continues to support the efforts related to face coverings, social distancing and the appropriate hygiene measures, and while face coverings continue to be strongly encouraged by the HutchCC Board of Trustees, they will no longer be required for those students, employees, and visitors that have been fully vaccinated.”

The thought was that nobody would be encouraged to wear masks, restrictions would be lightened, and that nobody would have to be afraid anymore. Times have changed since last spring.

Some are still being impacted by where our college stands currently in regards to the pandemic, others feel like it is close enough to being back to normal. In talking with Hutchinson Community College president Carter File, there is a better idea as to what students, faculty, and staff are looking at for the rest of this school year.

As the 2021-2022 academic year started, signs were placed on the doors around campus, stating masks were “expected.”

“Obviously, a mandate can create challenges as it relates to enforcement and potential challenges to that mandate. We would prefer not to play ‘mask police’ and have to dedicate the resources to ensuring compliance by students, faculty, and staff,” File said. “By opting for expected, we felt the message was clear to all that there is an expectation we should all wear a mask as appropriate. At this time, we feel that a strong expectation is a correct approach.”

Students may vary in their beliefs and opinions towards wearing a mask. However, this school year they have the freedom to make that choice for themselves, without the fear of consequences. “Expected” is more liberal than “Mandatory.”

Yet the question remains, how long will HutchCC have such expectations, especially as positive cases continue to decline?

According to the CDC, “While there have been breakthrough infections of COVID among people who are fully vaccinated, this is expected. COVID vaccines, like all vaccines, are not 100% effective. In addition, people who are moderately or severely immunocompromised due to illness or treatments may not be as protected by the vaccines as those with stronger immune systems.”

Even with vaccinations, nobody is completely safe. This will likely entail that masks will remain expected, vaccines will remain encouraged until we are all vaccinated or the virus is magically eradicated. While times seem better in regards to COVID, with fewer deaths and fewer breakouts, there is no certain end to this pandemic, especially anytime soon.

“It is impossible to say exactly what the future holds, but at the current time it is difficult to see a scenario where HutchCC would require students to be vaccinated simply to attend,” said File, in response to being questioned about mandatory vaccinations. “This is of course always open to change due to mandates from Federal, State, local government, or our clinical site partners. We are seeing many of our clinical partners start to require our students, who go to their sites, to be vaccinated.  This is not a requirement that is being imposed by HutchCC, but it might make completion of certain degrees/certificates difficult without being vaccinated.”

From an athletic standpoint, sports seem to be back to normal for the most part, except for a daily health assessment that they must take. Issues with Blue Dragon sports teams have been minimal and games are back up and running like any other semester.

Any outbreaks this season are expected to be handled the same way they have been handled in the past. HutchCC as a whole has managed these past couple of years with flying colors. The school has not been shut down for even one day. As a team, with communal efforts, HutchCC has helped keep everyone afloat. Things are finally slowly but surely starting to return to our genuine sense of normal, rather than this cloudy sense of normality many have all merely grown accustomed to.

“It’s important we all remain diligent in taking the appropriate steps as we continue to navigate the pandemic,” File said. “We all want to return to “normal”, whatever that’s going to look like, but it’s going to require sacrifices on the part of all of us to get there.”

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