Cue the trumpets: Ta-DUM! Covid restrictions at Exeter Summer have been lifted!
But what a difference!
Consider where we began.
On July 5th, as Phillips Exeter Academy’s Summer Session of 2021 began, the atmosphere was electric with excitement. Covid-19 had ravaged the United States and stalked its way to nations the world over. Students around the globe were made to follow varying degrees of restrictions, and the promise of an actual in-person Summer Session was enticing for students and employees.
Last year, Exeter Summer was restricted to fully online, unable to risk navigating an in-person summer during a pandemic peak. This year, during the first week of the Summer Session, Phillips Exeter Academy was asking all students, employees, and campus residents to keep their masks on when they were on campus unless they were exercising, drinking, eating, were alone or were in their dorm rooms. Also, students and employees had to eat food either outside or in their dorms.
Fortunately, the first week of Covid tests all came back negative, and Phillips Exeter Academy is now permitting students to go off campus, eat inside the dining hall, and take off their masks outside.
Rafaela Pires from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, said “I’m so excited to eat food inside the dining hall.”
Mackenzie Tuttle from Las Vegas, Nevada, was also happy about this new protocol. “All the tables in the dining hall were taken today when I went to lunch,” she said.
On the other hand, everyone still must follow the regulations since we are still in the pandemic. Students must also keep a 6-foot distance from others as much as possible. Those who are not fully vaccinated must be tested twice a week, and if a student gets a positive result on their test, he or she must leave the campus within 48 hours.
Furthermore, the number of students on campus is limited this summer — about half the usual roster of nearly 800. Students can enter buildings only using their Lion Cards, and boarding students cannot access the dormitories of their friends and are only allowed into their own rooms.
Even though students can only go off-campus by foot, Rafaela is still happy about this since if Exeter allows students to use any vehicles, she thinks it will be hard to do contact tracing. Also, she argues that it might increase the chances of contracting coronavirus disease.
Avery Winder of Boston commented on the current restrictions. “I think they’re reasonable.” She elaborated, replying to whether the restrictions should be loosened even more as the session goes on. She thinks they should be, “maybe because there was a mandate in Massachusetts that students and teachers don’t need to wear masks if they’re vaccinated.”
Lizbeidy Franco was glad to go mask-less outside, observing that “I was out of breath.”
Kayla Johnson remarked that “I can only think positively about the restrictions,” although she added that she was concerned about the lack of mask-wearing she saw in downtown Exeter.
The new Covid-19 protocols have allowed the Exeter Summer community to breathe a sigh of relief, and students are waiting to see more new changes on campus as these policies are put into place. Student opinions seem to be siding with the easing of Covid restrictions on campus, and past assemblies have brought reminders of future updates to protocols. Still, it is impossible to ignore the impact of the pandemic.
We must be patient and Covid-19 is the issue that the world is facing, not only us. “We are done with the virus, but the virus is not done with us,” as Jeff Ward, Exeter Summer director, has repeated during assemblies.