It has now been well over a year since the pandemic first began. Unfortunately, COVID-19 is persistent. That being said, we are still resilient. Blue Mountain College has been able to bring classes back to normal this semester, the only exception being the wearing of masks. Even that, though, is being reevaluated weekly, and we have resumed a “masks are recommended but not required” policy as of September 28, 2021.
It is natural that many are still worried about what the future holds for our BMC community, but the best way to fight worries is to gain information. For that, I contacted Ms. Deanna Palmer, who is our COVID-19 Response Coordinator and has helped to support and guide us since the beginning of the pandemic. For all of the changes taking place, Palmer assures that “the college consults with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH), executive orders issued by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves, and a local physician.”
In line with that, procedures for exposure to COVID-19 have been adapted so fully vaccinated people don’t need to quarantine. Vaccination isn’t a requirement for anyone on campus, but Palmer reminds us that they “encourage everyone to get vaccinated and to base the decision to do so on sound medical advice and not what you read or watch on social media or news outlets.” There are numerous opportunities for vaccination, both through the school and other local communities.
When asked to compare this year to the last, Palmer responded that “this year is a little different in that we are more prepared at what to expect. In preparation for the return of school this year we were able to take what we learned worked from last year and implement those things this year. We continue to update and make changes as we learn new things.”
Because of the steps made by our administration, COVID-19 is under control enough that campus life and student activities have begun to go back to normal. Along with encouraging vaccination and enforcing the mask policy, Palmer says that “Service Master takes care of sanitizing all areas of campus with daily cleanings and wiping down highly used surfaces. There are also hand sanitizing locations in various places around campus for use.”
Ms. Palmer doesn’t anticipate that we’ll have to go entirely virtual again, but “circumstances could change at any time. The decision to do so would be evaluated by the President and the President’s Cabinet.” There are contingency plans in place, though, and the administration is as prepared as anyone could be during these times. For now, “the best preparation advice [she] could give is to regularly check the BMC website, social media sites, and your email for any updates.”
When I asked Ms. Deanna Palmer what her advice would be for those that are anxious about COVID-19, she had this to say:
"The best advice I could have for students is found in Philippians 4: 6-7: '6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.' I am more than happy to have a conversation and to pray with any student that is feeling anxious. My door is open all the time for anyone."
It may not be over yet, but we’re more prepared now than ever before. As we work together, we’ll continue to make our way through the chaos that COVID-19 has caused.