As summer’s end steadily approaches, low vaccination rates and the rising transmission of the COVID Delta variant are sparking concerns for colleges across the country.

“We’re monitoring cases on and off campus that affect our community right now. The Delta variant seems to be a much more aggressive type of the virus,” said Kevin Eidson, Lipscomb’s Director of Health and Wellness.

“We want as many people to be vaccinated as possible… getting the vaccine allows you to have some more freedoms that you really don’t have without the protection of the vaccine.”

In a video sent out to faculty and staff, Susan Galbreath, Lipscomb’s Senior Vice President for Strategy shared the results of a campus survey revealing 55 percent of Lipscomb’s total population is vaccinated. Full-time employees are at a 74 percent vaccination rate. While higher than Tennessee’s vaccination rates, Lipscomb still falls behind reaching herd immunity.

According to Yale Medicine, COVID variants could indicate 80 percent of a population would need to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity.

The CDC updated its recommendations on July 27 to encourage indoor mask use for vaccinated individuals in COVID “hot spots”. Earlier this summer, the center had rolled back all restrictive recommendations for vaccinated people (except during travel).

Davidson County falls under the CDC’s rating of “high” for transmission levels. In response to the new CDC recommendation, Lipscomb says it will “continue to monitor local, state and federal guidance as we get nearer to the beginning of the semester.”

Current policy dictates unvaccinated students are encouraged to practice mask-wearing and could be placed in quarantine if exposed to COVID. On the subject of unvaccinated students, Eidson said “We strongly encourage you to wear a mask if you’re not vaccinated, that’s just to protect yourself and really to protect your group, your peers and your colleagues all over campus, just to be respectful,”

“If you’re vaccinated, you’re much less likely to have to go to the hospital, much less likely to have severe effects of the virus.”

Lipscomb considers its efforts to vaccinate the community, both on and off campus, a success. “Our College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences has given probably somewhere near 20,000 doses of this vaccine across the city,” said Eidson.

“they’re [campus faculty] very enthusiastic. They see vaccines as a way out of this. They see it as a way of getting back to normal… I think the enthusiasm is really really good.

Compared to the school year before, Eidson still feels the fall semester will more closely resemble that of 2019 than 2020. He said “I think we’re going to be hopefully much more like the 2019 year but in a modified COVID world,”

“What I mean by that is that we have to be prepared. Be cautious. I still want you to wash your hands and physically distance as best as you can. I know that that’s not going to be possible all the time, but I want you to be aware that this virus is still there, it hasn’t gone away yet.”

Lumination will continue to keep you updated on any restriction changes in the weeks leading up to the fall 2021 semester.

Photo via Mckenzi Harris

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