As more people get vaccinated for COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has released new recommendations for vaccinated people. However, not many restrictions will change at Ithaca College.
As of March 23, the CDC said fully vaccinated people can visit each other maskless and without social distancing, visit unvaccinated people who have a low risk of experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms and do not have to quarantine or be tested after being exposed to a person positive for COVID-19 if they are asymptomatic. However, fully vaccinated people should still wear masks in public, avoid large gatherings, wash their hands and get tested if they experience COVID-19 symptoms.
The CDC also said people are considered fully vaccinated two weeks after the second dose of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or two weeks after the single-dose Johnson & Johnson vaccine. In New York state as of March 24, 26.9% of the population has received their first dose of the vaccine and 14.1% of the population has received their second dose.
Although statewide restrictions are changing, Christina Moylan, director of public health emergency preparedness, said the college is not anticipating rolling back campuswide COVID-19 restrictions or guidelines.
Moylan said there are only a few new guidelines that affect the college. One of these is the CDC’s new guideline saying people two weeks out of their second dose do not have to quarantine following exposure to a person positive for COVID-19. Those students and employees are exempt from quarantining as long as they are asymptomatic. She said students can give the Hammond Health Center a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card so the center has a record of who is and is not vaccinated.
“If we know that you’re fully vaccinated — which is one of the incentives for students to provide us with that information when we do the contact tracing process — if we know that you’re fully vaccinated, then we will help facilitate with the [Tompkins County] Health Department to provide that exemption,” she said.
Moylan said that to the college’s knowledge, a large part of the campus community is not vaccinated, which is why most of the college’s guidelines are not changing. In addition to quarantine, the college’s travel guidelines are also still in place, Moylan said. The college has stated that travel is not permitted outside of Tompkins County except in emergency situations, and students must fill out the Emergency Travel Request form. Travelers into New York who are fully vaccinated are no longer required to quarantine upon arrival if they do not present symptoms.
Junior Lynnette Hartwell said that she has received her first dose of the vaccine and that her friends will also be fully vaccinated by the end of the semester. She said she is looking forward to being able to sit down and get dinner with them.
“Something I didn’t realize was such a huge part of my life and the way that I lived was planning to go see people over a plate of food,” Hartwell said.
Restaurants in New York state, excluding New York City, can begin having up to 75% capacity for indoor dining as of March 19. However, restaurants must continue keeping six feet of distance between tables and patrons.
Junior Sebastian Fullerton got his first dose of the vaccine and said he is also looking forward to being able to sit and eat with friends. He said that overall, he is looking forward to just being able to spend time with friends indoors once they are all vaccinated.
“Right now, when there are people around each other, there’s a little bit of nervousness,” he said. “I really can’t wait for that to be gone because I love hanging out with my friends, and I really want to get back to hanging out with them normally.”
Fullerton said he has not thought of any plans to make with friends post-vaccination, but just wants to be able to spend time with them.
Hartwell said her birthday usually falls during the college’s finals week. She said she and her friends will be vaccinated at that point and are looking forward to being able to safely celebrate.
“I’m really looking forward to be able to be in person with them and get to see them again and hopefully be able to go out to a restaurant to celebrate. … Just part of that normalcy that we don’t have right now,” Hartwell said.
Fullerton said he is happy to see lessened restrictions and a slight return to normalcy as more and more vaccines roll out.
“Even though it’s going to be in its early stages so there might not be a whole lot of other people that have both vaccinations, I am looking forward to spending time with those who are vaccinated fully,” he said.
As of March 22, people can hold outdoor residential gatherings of up to 25 people, and nonresidential outdoor gatherings can have up to 200 people. Hartwell said she is looking forward to spending time outside with her vaccinated friends as the weather in Ithaca gets warmer.
“We could actually go outside and not have to be wearing 3,000 layers of clothes to be able to hang out and talk to each other,” she said.