As we attempt to get back to a normal life after lockdown, students have been forced back into ASU classrooms with little to no preparation on what to expect next.
While appreciating the fact that we get to be back in person after a long period of isolation, it can get overwhelming to sit in lecture halls filled to the brim with students — some wearing masks, some not — with little possibility of social distancing or finding any personal space.
I, personally, don't know where my classmates have been or if they've been following COVID-19 guidelines as closely as they should be. All I can do is wear my mask, carry around my hand sanitizer and hope for the best.
Getting "back to normal" is an ongoing process. It's not something that can happen overnight. ASU should have done a better job at reintroducing students back to campus by slowly filling classrooms rather than forcing them all in at once as if they're sardines in a can.
When ASU students returned to campus last fall semester, they had the option to attend classes either in person or through Zoom using ASU Sync.
But despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, ASU has largely eliminated this option for students — something they should not have done. ASU left students to their own devices and has yet to come up with a way to ease the minds of those of us who want to be on campus safely.
Already one of the largest public universities in the nation, ASU broke an enrollment record this fall, with a 12% increase of first-year students. The number of people on campus last fall compared to now is astounding. Overall, there was an increase of more than 6% from fall 2020 enrollment.
From what I myself have seen on campus so far, many don't wear masks, even when they are "strongly recommended" to by the University.
Currently, there are 312 active COVID-19 cases within the ASU community, according to a Tuesday University update.
At last week's football game, an overwhelming number of people attended without wearing a mask. The official attendance for the season-opening game was 44,456 people.
Layla Lopez, a sophomore majoring in forensic science, was in attendance for the game and felt safe, but was still worried.
"I did think about my safety a lot because I didn't see one person wearing a mask," Lopez said.
Although she expressed concern while being at the game, she felt optimistic about returning to campus. "I think being in person is awesome in general. I feel like ASU is taking precautions in the classroom and I love how they're encouraging the (COVID-19) vaccine too."
In places where social distancing is not possible, such as in the classroom, masks are mandatory, according to University policy. But other precautions, like more strict mask mandates, mandatory random testing or minimizing the number of people at events or in a class, are not in place.
While some people are relieved to be back, I can't help but worry.
All those people standing shoulder-to-shoulder make me nervous for the weeks to come. People who attended packed events are allowed to continue their lives as usual, without any quarantine period or mandated COVID-19 testing.
I understand people are tired of living their lives in fear of the virus, but even as a fully vaccinated person, I have this nagging voice in the back of my head reminding me the pandemic isn't over.
New variants of the virus seem to emerge every other week in a never-ending cycle of uncertainty, with the delta variant being twice as contagious as previous strains, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
ASU's original plans to limit the spread of the virus on campus may have been hindered by a Gov. Doug Ducey executive order, but it could have gone further in its mask mandate to help protect students and staff.
With last semester's hybrid system, I felt much more comfortable being on campus and getting as close to a college experience as I could.
Now, I feel unsure.
Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.
Want to join the conversation? Send an email to email@example.com. Keep letters under 500 words and be sure to include your university affiliation. Anonymity will not be granted.
Continue supporting student journalism and donate to The State Press today.