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Siena student urging classmates to get vaccinated

Nathaniel Kim, a Siena College junior and 2018 Niskayuna graduate, is pictured.
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Nathaniel Kim, a Siena College junior and 2018 Niskayuna graduate, is pictured.

A 2018 Niskayuna High School graduate and current Siena College junior is urging students to get vaccinated so the college can begin rolling back COVID regulations regarding gatherings of students on campus.

Nathaniel Kim said he misses seeing his friends and feeling safe hanging out with them.

“There’s really not much you can do with your friends, so if we do get everyone vaccinated we’ll definitely have a nicer time that we can just have hanging out with our friends as opposed to just being completely in our rooms or doing things outside,” he said. “Also just like not worrying about getting sick too.”

Kim, a pre-med student, sits on the Student Senate COVID safety and vaccine committee. He along with his co-chair Annamaria Walden are working on educating students about the safety of the vaccine.

They sent out a survey to get an idea about why students were hesitant about getting the vaccine. Most recently they held a town hall where students could raise concerns and have their questions addressed by a medical doctor. There are plans to hold another event in a few weeks regarding new information on the vaccines, Kim said.

“Just trying to ease some fears of some students, but also get students to be able to tell their friends to get vaccinated, so we can hopefully have everyone vaccinated and have a safer community campus,” he said.

The college’s goal is to reach herd immunity–or 70% of the student population being vaccinated. Once the 70% mark is hit the college will make operation changes, said Lisa Witkowski, the associate director of communications for the college. Those changes include:

Students won’t be required to wear masks outside, when social distancing is in place

Up to three guests will be allowed in residence halls and five in townhouses

Up to 50 people can gather outside

All clubs can resume with safety protocols

Those who have been vaccinated will automatically default to “green” status for their daily health screen app, noting they aren’t feeling symptoms

Kim said students who have been vaccinated will upload a picture of their vaccine card to a secure health portal set up by the school.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Witkowski said 1,222 of the 2,611 on-campus students have been vaccinated, putting them just over 600 students shy of reaching their goal.

SUNY Schenectady County Community College is waiting for direction from SUNY Chancellor Jim Malatras and the county department of health, said college President Steady Moono Tuesday.

He said they anticipate guidance in the next couple of weeks.

“We are sitting tight in terms of what that guidance is, but at the same we are doing everything we can to push for that,” Moono said.

However, Moono said the college is aiming for upwards of 80% of its student population being vaccinated. He said the student government association has been running a campaign using student and faculty testimonials about getting the shot to encourage others to do so.

“The end goal that we want is we miss you, we want to be together again,” he said. “The way we are going to get back together is by getting vaccinated.”

It is great that the college is a point of distribution for the vaccine because it makes it easier for students to get it, Moono said.

Malatras has not indicated how SUNY campuses will handle the arrival of students in the fall yet or what percentage of the student population it will ask for in terms of herd immunity. The chancellor will wait to make a decision until reviewing data and guidelines throughout the summer, said Press Secretary Holly Liapis.

However, on Wednesday Malatras said the federal government’s mandate that pharmacies provide a second dose of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine to people who got their first shot in a different location is a huge win for college students. He said it means that students who received their first dose at their college or facility in their college town can now get their second dose at a pharmacy in their hometown during summer vacation. SUNY is proceeding to urg students to get a second dose using a “Don’t Stop with One Shot” campaign across campuses.

Union College has a third of its student population fully vaccinated so far, said Fran’cee Brown-McClure, the vice president for student affairs and the dean of students.

She said there is a health screening students fill out where they can upload their vaccination card and that the health center is also tracking who has been vaccinated.

She said any time new information has come out regarding vaccine eligibility it was sent along to students to encourage them to go get the shot. However, the college has not determined whether it will require students to get the shot before returning in the fall.

Brown-McClure also said no decision has been made yet as to how the campus will operate in the fall regarding student gatherings.

“Fall is still really far away and every day guidance is changing,” said Brown-McClure. “So the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) just put out new guidance yesterday that wasn’t in place on Monday, so we really and truly are trying to think about the fall but are also very aware of the things that could shift and change throughout the summer.”

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