Racers experience semester start without COVID-19 restraints


tudents are able to be on campus without being required to wear mask or social distance. (Dionte Berry/The News)

Dionte Berry, Editor-in-Chief

For the past three academic years, the University was forced to adapt to COVID-19 through changes such as masking and social distancing, but the fall 2022 semester marks the start to a year of normalcy. 

Despite masking and social distancing not being enforced as precautionary measures, COVID-19 is still in Calloway County. According to the Team Kentucky COVID-19 tracker map updated on Friday, Aug. 26, Calloway County is a low transmission country, while nearly half of Kentucky is considered highly transmissible. The surrounding counties are either at the medium or high level of transmission.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Racer Restart tab of murraystate.edu had a chart showing the campus case rate, but that has been discontinued for the fall 2022 semester.

Shawn Touney, executive director of branding and marketing, said the discontinuation happened as a result of not receiving the case numbers from state and local healthcare providers. 

Case counts are not as reflective as they once were because of the swing toward at-home COVID-19 testing, and Touney cites this as a reason why case counts are not provided anymore. Touney encourages campus to continue following COVID-19 guidelines.

“Everyone should take personal responsibility to receive their COVID-19 vaccine and boosters, stay home if sick and follow all of our additional Racer Safe and Healthy Guidelines,” Touney said.

Racer Safe and Healthy Officer Jordan Smith shared that on-campus quarantining is not as prevalent as it once was, but is still offered.

“Limited on-campus accommodations as determined on a case-by-case basis are available to students living on campus with a confirmed COVID-19 positive test from a medical provider,” Smith said. 

If needed, Smith said to contact Auxiliary Services to request special accommodations by calling or texting 270 226-3492.

Accommodations are available, but Smith said it is preferred for students to quarantine at home or in their assigned room in their residential college if they do not have a roommate. 

Unlike the suggested 14-day isolation that was issued at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now advises for five-day isolation if one’s test is positive. 

Both Smith and Touney said even though Calloway County reports low COVID-19 rates, they are still in contact with local, state and federal health officials regarding public health matters. 

Beyond monitoring COVID-19 rates, there is a sense of normalcy that hasn’t been present since the fall 2019 semester. A majority of Racers have yet to experience a semester that isn’t hampered by COVID-19. 

Senior Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages  major Rose Nelson said the return to normalcy reminds her of her freshman year. 

“I remember my freshman year coming in, I had one normal semester, and it feels like that again,” Nelson said. “I’ve missed out on so many events during the pandemic, and some were events that I didn’t know about when I was a freshman, so it’s my first time experiencing them.”

Nelson notes that COVID-19 is still prevalent, but said she trusts that people have developed a sense of personal responsibility for their health throughout the pandemic. 

“I feel like people are still taking precautions too,” Nelson said. “There were a couple times this summer where I had a cold and thought, ‘I’m going to get tested to be sure.’”

Similar to Nelson, senior English literature major Rachel Kidd said she’s happy with the sense of normalcy again, but can’t help being a little skeptical. 

“It feels like I’ve been in a weird time loop, and I feel like I still have more time to be here before I graduate, but I don’t,” Kidd said. “I am happy, but it’s a big readjustment, and I can’t help but be a little paranoid because obviously COVID-19 has not gone away yet.”

Kidd said she feels as though she still needs to be on guard when she’s at social events, but doesn’t want to miss the chance to enjoy her college years.

“You don’t want to jeopardize yourself and your health and security,” Kidd said. “But I kind of just want to enjoy all that I can in hopes that history doesn’t repeat itself in the next few years.”

Updated COVID-19 transmission levels for Calloway County are available at kycovid19.ky.gov. COVID-19 testing and vaccine locations on campus and in Murray can be found at murraystate.edu/racerrestart/testing and murraystate.edu/vaccine.