Ball State’s COVID-19 plans moving forward
While Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb lifted the face mask mandate April 6, Ball State students and employees are still required to wear masks at least through the end of the spring 2021 semester, according to an April 1 email from President Geoffrey Mearns.
"I think it is prudent for us to maintain our current protocols throughout the remainder of the spring semester, including during our Commencement exercises in early May," Mearns said.
In addition to announcing the continued campus mask mandate, Mearns said the university Board of Trustees will reveal its fall 2021 semester plans for operation at its May 7 meeting.
During the meeting, Mearns said, the board will also discuss plans to incentivize all students and staff to receive vaccines before the fall semester begins.
Source: Geoffrey Mearns, Ball State University president
Only five hospitals and clinics in Indiana had received doses of COVID-19 vaccines the week the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine for emergency use in December 2020. Nearly four months later, more than 400 vaccine clinics have opened in the state.
Ball State opened its own on-campus clinic in the Health Professions Building March 19. Blair Mattern, director of interdisciplinary clinical operations, said the clinic was opened with help from a Ball Brothers Foundation grant.
The Health Professions Building clinic is open Wednesdays and Fridays, which Mattern said was based on the time availability of nursing students and faculty supervisors.
“Almost all of our vaccines have been administered by nursing students, so that’s really exciting,” he said. “College of Health students and students from other colleges are part of the administrative staff helping with check-ins … It’s almost like a student-led vaccine clinic.”
Mattern said all students involved in administering the vaccines were required to complete a training module following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines, and the clinic had to be approved by the Delaware County Health Department before opening.
Mattern said the county health department was “very gracious about getting us access [to vaccine doses] and trying to do so as quickly as they could.”
Patients abide by strict social distancing protocols in the lobby of the building, Mattern said, and go through temperature screening when they enter.
“We have a one-way patient flow through the clinic, which is fantastic,” Mattern said. “You don’t have patients crossing back and forth. We’ve seen a lot of people for vaccines, but the way we’ve scheduled them and our setup has allowed for great crowd control.”
Madi Marshall, sophomore communication studies and psychology major, received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 30 at Meijer. She signed up to get notifications of when an appointment would be available to her and received an email the morning of March 30 that an appointment had opened.
“There were a lot of other Ball State students that I saw in line while I was waiting and I was excited to see them because I think this is kind of our first ray of hope that we’ve had in a while to return to normalcy,” Marshall said. “Seeing that people are willing and able to get [the vaccine] and get this done, that made me excited.”
Marshall said she had a sore arm after receiving the vaccine for about two days, but that was her only side effect.
Marshall said she thinks people will continue to wear face masks for at least the next few months as many people still aren’t fully vaccinated.
“We all know that [masks are] helping and that they’re essential right now,” she said. “I’m sure that not everyone will be able to get a vaccine, or not as soon, so I hope that everyone just continues to be respectful and thoughtful of other people and continue to try to stay safe.”
Sarah Clinton, junior communications major, also received her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 31 after scheduling an appointment through Meijer’s waitlist for employees. Clinton said she signed up to be on the waitlist one week before the state of Indiana opened vaccine eligibility to people ages 16 and older.
“As soon as they said it’s opening to 16-year-olds, I was like, ‘I want it,’” Clinton said. “I was not expecting to get [the vaccine] until probably June. I was shocked it was this soon.”
Clinton said she is the first person in her immediate family to get the vaccine. She said she worked at Meijer in her hometown of Kouts, Indiana, in summer 2020 and is currently searching for a summer job in Muncie. She said she doesn’t have any plans to change her behavior after being fully vaccinated.
“I think I will still wear my mask [and] try to keep others as safe as possible because a lot is known about the vaccine but not everything,” Clinton said. “Until it comes out that whoever is vaccinated is safe [and] doesn’t need to wear their mask anymore, I will continue to wear mine.”
Will Snyder, junior urban planning major and resident assistant (RA) in Kinghorn Hall, said he was able to schedule a vaccination appointment at IU Health Ball Memorial Hospital around the middle of March.
He heard from a fellow RA that their positions were considered first responders and said he was surprised to learn he was eligible.
“That’s not something we were told… I’m not an EMT, but at the same time, I am someone who has to respond to situations in our building,” Snyder said. “I think it’s kind of interesting we weren’t told that’s an option that we had.”
Snyder received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine at Ball Memorial Hospital, the first on March 19 and second on April 9. He said he didn’t have any side effects after the first dose, but felt fatigued and had a sore arm after the second.
Snyder said once more of his friends are fully vaccinated, he will feel comfortable gathering in small groups without masks, but he thinks he will continue to wear a mask in public.
Evan Gosnell, freshman biology major, received his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine March 31 at Meijer. Gosnell said he called to ask if the store had any vaccine appointment cancellations in late March before state eligibility was opened to all adults.
“The actual process of getting the shot was really quick,” Gosnell said. “The line was kind of long, but I showed up early for my appointment, and I was out in maybe 30 minutes.”
Gosnell’s second dose is scheduled for April 21. He said he will follow CDC guidelines about wearing a mask after being vaccinated.
Gosnell said he is looking forward to in-person gatherings in the fall 2021 semester, where he hopes he can meet fellow students.
“It was kind of underwhelming to come to college when the pandemic was in full swing and have a lack of in-person events,” Gosnell said. “I felt like I missed out, but, hopefully, it will be better next year.”
By the start of the fall semester, Gosnell said, he thinks more people will be vaccinated and some campus restrictions will be lifted.
“It’s just speculation, but I imagine [Ball State] will probably require the vaccine to get on campus — that seems like a logical step to me,” he said. “If that happens, I think a lot more on-campus events will open and we’ll possibly be mostly back to normal.”
This story will be updated.