Students embrace a return to normal on campus Thursday, Sep 9 2021 

By Alexia Juarez–

Incoming and current U of L students are starting out the fall semester with in-person classes and activities. This is the first step in returning to a “normal” campus atmosphere since the outbreak over a year ago. 

To support this atmosphere, U of L has laid out several protocols to contain the widespread virus and keep students and university members safe.  

Since Aug. 9, all university members have been required to wear a mask in public and indoor spaces, regardless of vaccination status. 

Indoor spaces are defined as any space inside a campus building which is not a private room or office. This includes classrooms, academic labs, study, and restroom areas, along with libraries and hallways. This is understandable, due to the rising cases in Kentucky. 

According to the New York Times, Jefferson County’s 7-day average was about 479 cases per day from Aug. 31 to Sept. 6. Given Louisville’s population, it is imperative that students and faculty enforce this policy to contain the virus and return to campus life.  

Unvaccinated university members are required to be tested regularly. There are three required testing periods: Aug. 17 to 27, Sept. 7 to 17, and Oct. 6 to 15.  

This is a big step that U of L has taken in their return to normal — or as normal as it can be. Given that the pandemic has gone on for more than a year and a half, several students had not been on campus since the start of the outbreak. 

Given these announcements, it’s nice to have some hope for incoming and current students to enjoy campus life while balancing the unpredictability of the pandemic. It’s not only a silver lining for students, but for faculty as well. 

Professors will no longer have to struggle in online lectures for the desired student engagement –which is lacking in all online courses — or with the unbearable technical difficulties. These in-person classes bring back the socialization that some may have lost during this pandemic.   

For incoming freshmen, this may seem overwhelming. However, with the end goal in mind — to keep our U of L community safe and to have a normal in person education experience as much as possible — these protocols are the key to keeping the virus under control and ensuring students get the most out of their college experience.  

 

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University of Louisville should offer students free tuition in vaccination prize drawing Monday, Aug 30 2021 

By Catherine Brown–

University of Louisville’s Division of Student Affairs recently announced that vaccinated students have the opportunity to win prizes by enrolling in a contest.

The contest, which will take place in a series of rounds over the fall semester, gives students the chance to win a number of prizes for being vaccinated. Prizes range from a U of L T-shirt or a throw blanket to more expensive items such as daily free Starbucks for 1 year and 4 Blue parking passes for the rest of the fall semester.

But how can we really get students involved? Free tuition for students.

After all, U of L made more than enough money after furloughing staff and raising fees last year that they can afford to put forth free tuition for several students.

According to U of L’s annual budget report for the 2020-21 academic year, U of L operated with a revenue of ~$1.2 billion. In the 2022 fiscal year, U of L plans to operate with a budget of ~$1.3 billion.

Part of this revenue came from raising student tuition, which the university increased by 2% in the 2020-21 academic year at the undergraduate level (with further tuition increases for graduate and professional programs). U of L also raised housing rates by ~2-5% in most complexes, with the most significant change being a 20% increase in Billy Minardi Hall’s 1 bed, 1 bath unit.

In the 2021-22 academic year, housing rates will remain the same as they were the previous year, save for the new housing complex –Belknap Residence Hall– replacing Threlkeld Hall. But with an influx of students on campus this semester, housing can more than make up any revenue lost due to the pandemic in the 2020-21 academic year.

 At approximately $22 million, Student Affairs operates on a budget that is nowhere near the size of the university as a whole.

This is why the university can certainly afford to open up its pockets to allow students the opportunity to win free tuition for a semester should students choose to get vaccinated.

After all, the university has not yet decided to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for students, faculty, or staff. As of an email sent out on August 20, 54% of U of L students are fully vaccinated.

Student Body President Ugonna Okorie said that the SGA is helping Student Affairs come up with ideas for prizes.

“I’m excited to see what prizes will be offered in the future and I think any prizes that [relieves] students from financial pressure would be extremely beneficial, especially with the ongoing pandemic,” said Okorie.

Let’s hope one such prize includes free tuition for students.

 

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Yes, gas prices are rising. No, it’s not Biden’s fault. Monday, Apr 26 2021 

By Riley Vance—

As gas prices skyrocket, many Americans have taken to their Twitter feeds to point fingers at our newly inaugurated president, Joe Biden. Just earlier this month, Republican congressman Jim Jordan retweeted a tweet about gas prices rising 20.8% since January with: “Who took office in January?”

As college students struggling to afford living expenses and education costs during a pandemic the increasing price of gas is certainly frustrating, but can it be entirely Biden’s fault? 

Country music singer Travis Tritt also took to Twitter addressing his concerns. Tritt said, “Have you noticed gas prices lately? We’ve already returned to the highest gas prices since the Obama administration in many places. Thanks, Biden!”

Comments under his tweet were all in support of his viewpoint.

But, gas prices have steadily increased since May 2020. We saw a 45% increase in the price of gas in a short 10-month span. Prices went from $1.87 in April 2020 to $2.72 in February 2021. Since Biden has taken office, there has been a 10% increase in gas prices. 

The major argument from Republican leaders is that the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline is to blame for the spike in gas prices, but this claim can easily be debunked by the fact that the pipeline wasn’t even operating yet. 

Louis Jacobson, a writer for the Tampa Bay Times, said that the majority of the oil that would have been carried by Keystone XL would have been exported, meaning there would be little effect on prices in the U.S.

Changes in the price of gas due to the decision to cancel the pipeline or limit fossil fuels are not infeasible but would take years to develop. 

The more likely explanation for the increase in gas prices has to do with the simple concept of supply and demand. 

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) oil cartel and Russia have made cuts in production—this is the supply part of the equation. 

As far as the demand goes, we are recovering from a pandemic. People are getting vaccinated and returning back to a more normal lifestyle full of traveling (to work, on vacation or wherever else they please). 

According to NPR’s COVID-19 Vaccine Tracker, over 187 million Americans have been vaccinated and over 72 million have been fully vaccinated since the COVID-19 vaccine distribution started in December 2020.

This is the logical reason for the increase of gas prices. 

Rapier said you can place blame on Biden, but only for slowing the spread of the pandemic. 

“If you think Biden is responsible for hastening the end of the pandemic, then you can place some blame for the rise in oil prices on him. But that’s because the economy is beginning to recover, which is a good thing,” said Rapier.

“It’s definitely annoying that gas prices are so high, but I think they’ll go down eventually. I think it was a normal reaction from the impact of COVID,” said Alex Wesbrooks, a junior finance major.

An increase in gas prices can hurt a lot of Americans’ wallets, but a more optimistic perspective is that we’re getting closer and closer to “normal” every day with the rollout of vaccines.  

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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While we may never “return to normal,” we can take the first steps Wednesday, Mar 24 2021 

By Catherine Brown–

After two semesters of hybrid and remote classes, U of L is finally offering face-to-face classes and 100% virtual classes in fall 2021. This can finally be the return to normal that many students have been anticipating.

U of L announced the transition in an email sent out earlier this month on March 12 via the U of L Update service account. 

In the email, Executive Vice President and University Provost Beth Boehm said that as vaccines are coming out, the university will be able to transition most classes from virtual to face-to-face in the fall.

This is the kind of news that many students and faculty have been looking forward to since last spring.

“I was very excited to see that we’d be going back to face-to-face,” Trevin Brent, a junior SPAD major, said. “As long as it is proven to be safe I couldn’t be happier about it!”

Brent added that he plans to schedule all in-person classes for the fall semester.

Meanwhile, Livi Westbay, a junior communication major, hopes that U of L keeps hybrid classes as an option for students to choose when registering for classes.

“I’m glad classes are going back to normal but I think U of L should keep hybrid courses an option,” Westbay said.

Accordingly, she plans to enroll in only online classes for the fall semester.

For faculty and staff, these changes mean planning out another semester of classes while also needing a contingency plan in case the pandemic rolls over into the fall.

Megan Poole, assistant professor of English at U of L, aims to make decisions for the class based on what her students are most comfortable with.

“The main practice I began during pandemic teaching that I will continue into future semesters is sending out a pre-course survey to ask what students expect to get from the course, how they plan to participate, and why they have enrolled,” she said. “This feedback allows me to tweak instruction plans to best fit student needs and interests, but it also gives students a stake in how the course unfolds.”

Poole said that she hopes other professors will be mindful of the physical and mental wellbeing of students as they plan for the future.

“More fundamental than whether I agree or not with the change to F2F or 100% DE is my belief that no matter what format our classes operate under next semester, professors should enter the classroom knowing that students might struggle with yet another transition in their learning environment.” 

Traditional freshmen in the 2020-21 school year might not have gotten the “college experience” that many upperclassmen got to enjoy in the 2019-2020 academic year, including in-person RSO meetings, school sporting events, and getting to meet classmates and professors in the classroom.

In fall 2021, incoming freshmen will get the chance to experience college life a little bit closer to the way it was before.

As more individuals across campus get the vaccine, we can anticipate a steady decrease in the number of COVID-19 cases.

We know that the virus will not be gone by the fall semester.

But we can still plan to return to a fraction of the way we once were.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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One year later: Advice you would give to your 2020 self Tuesday, Mar 23 2021 

By Zachary Baker–

One of the last days of normalcy that we had before everything went downhill and the pandemic started to change how we went along with our lives happened one year and a week ago, on March 14, 2020. 

As we reach the one-year mark of this pandemic, we face many questions: When will I get the vaccine? Will we return to normal by the end of the year?  

However, another question that we may have been faced with is: What if I could go back and change how I behaved this last year, what advice would I give myself?

“I’d tell myself last year to stop caring about the inconveniences and distractions of life and focus on what really matters. Friends and family,” said Alex Reynolds, a freshman political science major.

There are few things that most of us would likely tell ourselves a year ago: buy up toilet paper while you can, stay away from crowds and keep your family safe, and perhaps even invest within GameStop stock while you have the chance. 

“Honestly, I wish I had bought more Bitcoin,” said Chance Peterson, a senior political science major.

However, others would tell themselves that they should have been more productive and that they should find ways to keep on track with their objectives and schoolwork. 

And while others were getting into shape and improving themselves significantly as a way to hold back the cabin fever, I was preoccupied with writing and publishing my own book.

That leads me to the major piece of advice that I would give to my past self, I would tell myself to focus on getting healthy. It may not be the easiest objective, but while the rest of the world is falling apart around you, the thing that can help you feel in control could be getting a hold over your body and your mind.

It may not be the most fruitful to regret what could have been over the past year, however, it is not like we can go back and change the past. But that is the interesting thing about regrets for me, while I can’t go back into the past, I can focus on the future and the now.

If you look back on this past year and you think to yourself, “I should have been more productive”, or in my case “I wish I had gotten healthier,” then you give yourself a goal for now. 

You may not have spent the pandemic like you wanted to, but you can always focus on not having any regrets for the future. 

With the country slowly opening back up we have a chance to be better than we were all last year. Gyms are opening back up, classes are slowly getting back to normal, and we can go out with our vaccinated friends. 

While we look back at our last year, we recognize that we could have been better, but we must understand that it is never too late to start doing better now.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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Stay home: Traveling over spring break is a risk you shouldn’t take Tuesday, Feb 23 2021 

By Zachary Baker–

It seems insane to imagine that we are nearing the one-year anniversary of when this pandemic began, for many of us it feels as if time just stopped. 

So many of us feel as though the only way that we know time is passing is because deadlines for assignments get closer and closer. It may feel like we all need a vacation, a trip to the beach, or to Las Vegas for a night on the town. It may be tempting with classes online and spring break coming up soon. 

But don’t fall to temptation. Rather, stay strong, stay home and stay safe over the next couple of months.

According to data reported by The New York Times, the 7-day average for new cases of COVID-19 within Jefferson County have been declining since early January.

In February, the rate of new cases dipped below 1,000 on 3 separate days. For a brief period, Jefferson County was considered an “orange county” as the incidence rate dropped to less than 25 cases per 100,000 individuals.

At the time of this article’s publication Jefferson County is back to being a red county.

With vaccinations coming, and many people that we know already receiving them, it may seem as if this is almost all over and we can return to normal. However, being near the end doesn’t mean that the threat of the pandemic is over yet. 

“The benefits of travel simply aren’t worth the risks, yet,” said Scott LaJoie, an associate professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences at U of L. “By spring break, too few people will be fully vaccinated, there are new strains of SARS-COV-2 trying to get established, and we could end up giving the pandemic new life if we stop doing what we know works.” 

The threat that a new strain could go around before we are ready to stop our current one is very real, and it is a situation that we see happening in other parts of the world. 

At the same time, you want to go out and do something fun to get away from the same old routine you find yourself caught in. But you do not have to travel in order to get away from our routines. You can find fun at home under current protections. 

One option is to travel to one of the nature trails or parks within the county and get a breath of fresh air and exercise. Another is to have small get-togethers with friends on Zoom for some much-needed social time. 

“With mass vaccinations underway, the end of the pandemic is finally coming into view. We have the tools to keep ourselves and others safe. It is up to us not to stumble at the finish line,” said Ryan Combs, an assistant U of L professor of Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences.

We are close to winning against this disease, and while it may be awhile before things feel normal again, we shouldn’t risk our lives and the lives of others for an attempt to get away from it all. 

Stay home, stay in Louisville, stay safe and let’s beat this thing.

Graphic by Andrew Campbell // The Louisville Cardinal 

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Valentine’s Day looks a little bit different for singles this year Sunday, Feb 14 2021 

By Riley Vance–

As the first Valentine’s Day of the pandemic approaches, many single students may feel relief that they won’t be the only ones at home by themselves this year. 

For some, Valentine’s Day is full of chocolate, flowers, and cards from their loved ones. For others, it’s a dreadful day that comes once a year and couldn’t pass by faster. 

The anxiety or fear of missing out (FOMO) on fun events is a real phenomenon that most people have probably experienced from time to time—especially college students. 

Lalin Anik, assistant professor of business administration at the University of Virginia, analyzed the ways in which FOMO has continued through the pandemic.

“We wanted to see what might happen to FOMO during this time of COVID-19, when people are stuck at home, largely unable to travel, attend large gatherings or do many of the things we would normally do for fun.

“FOMO in the pandemic stems from the difficulty of catching up with all of the things being offered online, far more than we can be a part of or watch all at once,” said Anik.

In the pandemic, this means missing out on social gatherings via Zoom, conversations over social media or other online activities that might only be available for a short time.

This feeling of missing out can definitely be stronger on Valentine’s Day if you’re sitting at home binge-watching rom-coms like a hopeless romantic while simultaneously scrolling past couples posting pictures of their significant others sitting across the table from them at a fancy restaurant. 

This year, however, is a completely different scenario. 

Yes, there will still be a million Boomerangs of people clinking their glasses of wine or champagne together to celebrate their everlasting love for each other. 

There will also be a number of people laying low this year as well, which some people may find comfort in. 

Abby Ebersold, a senior communications major, is spending her night doing just that. 

“I’m just spending my Valentine’s Day at home with my roommates. We’re going to watch movies, make dinner, and bake a fun dessert. There’s definitely no shame in having a low-key Valentine’s Day especially during the pandemic,” said Ebersold.

We all fall prey to blaming the pandemic for being lazy, unproductive, or anti-social. Now, you can blame the pandemic for spending your Valentine’s Day by yourself. You don’t even have to feel bad about it, because you’re technically doing what you’re supposed to be doing. You’re kind of saving lives.

So, this year for Valentine’s Day, order takeout from your favorite restaurant, watch your favorite movies, buy yourself some chocolate and flowers, and have an awesome night in by yourself. Take pride in knowing that you’re not contributing to the widespread transmission of the coronavirus.

Graphic by Alexis Simon // The Louisville Cardinal

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COVID-19: Here’s what students can expect next semester Thursday, Dec 17 2020 

By Joseph Garcia — 

With COVID-19 showing no signs of slowing down, U of L has already begun looking ahead to the spring semester and has updated its COVID guidelines.

Here’s what students can expect over winter break and next spring:

Winter Break COVID-19 Testing Schedule:

Bluewater Diagnostics Lab, the organization that conducted U of L’s COVID tests in the fall, will continue providing tests to university members on campus over Winter Break.

These tests are for asymptomatic individuals only and begin Dec. 21 through Dec. 23. Another round of testing will occur at the end of the month, from the 28th until the 30th. You can schedule an appointment here.

Individuals already experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 should contact one of the Campus Health locations for a free rapid test.

Spring 2021 COVID-19 Testing Schedule:

Free testing will continue once the semester starts and run throughout the spring during various testing periods.

“The first required testing period will be Jan. 4 through Jan. 15,” U of L’s Coordinating Committee told students in an email outlining the updated COVID guidelines. The committee includes University Provost Beth Boehm, Dean of Students Michael Mardis and Executive Director of Campus Health Services Phillip Bressoud.

During this first round of testing, all students, staff and faculty who plan to return to campus are required to get tested. Prior to the start of the semester, the university is also asking that people returning to campus quarantine for 10 days prior to their return.

There will be three other mandatory testing periods during the semester: Feb. 819, March 819 and Apr1223.

At this time more information regarding the times and locations for testing has not been released.

COVID-19 and Flu Vaccines:

The Coordinating Committee also shared news on the newly developed COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer-BioNTech.

According to U of L’s “COVID-19 Vaccine FAQ,” Kentucky is expected to receive 30,000 doses in its initial shipment from the federal government.

The committee said that once U of L receives the vaccine, it will be distributed in two phases.

Phase One includes vaccinations for U of L Health’s front-line workers and U of L front-line employees such as clinical faculty, residents and fellows. The university said in its FAQ that once more doses become available, “employees who go into our affiliated health care facilities” will receive the vaccine, “followed by our students in clinical programs such as medicine, dentistry and nursing.”

Phase Two will include teachers and childcare workers, essential workers, those with underlying conditions that put them at moderate risk, individuals over 65 years of age, and anyone in congregate housing/dorms.

Once the vaccine becomes available however, U of L said that it will not be required for students, faculty or staff. The university does, “highly encourage” campus individuals to receive the vaccination.

Currently, there is no information on how or where students will be able to receive the vaccine. U of L did say that Campus Health is preparing a voluntary vaccination program plan for the campus. They plan to release more information once the vaccine becomes available to the university.

Graphic by Andrew Campbell // The Louisville Cardinal

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Kentuckians $75 Million Behind On Utilities As Moratorium Ends Monday, Oct 5 2020 

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As the autumns chill descends on Kentucky, utility customers who’ve fallen behind on payments because of the global pandemic and economic recession could have their power, gas and water service disconnected beginning Oct. 20.

The Public Service Commission requires all utilities to create payment plans for residential customers who’ve fallen behind on their bills between March 16 and October 1, 2020.

The terms of the payment plans require utilities give at least six months to pay the past due balances, but if customers fall behind on those payments, utilities can disconnect services, according to the order.


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Mental health tips to stay healthy during COVID-19 Tuesday, Aug 25 2020 

By Catherine Brown–

It is often easier to worry about the physical precautions that we should take during the pandemic. Washing your hands, wearing a mask and social distancing in public are clear ways to care for yourself and others. But when it comes to mental health, it might not be as easy to spot the concerns.

As college students, many of us already probably struggle to get out of bed in the morning. Adding on a global pandemic certainly doesn’t make it any better.

Here are some tips for taking care of yourself during a stressful global pandemic:

 

Watch for signs of mental distress.

The CDC suggests ways in which you can identify signs of distress. Some of these signs can include fear or worry about your financial situation, or your or someone else’s health, changes in sleeping patterns and difficulty concentrating. 

Seek professional help if you or a loved one are experiencing any of these signs and they persist for several days leaving you unable to perform your normal responsibilities. The University of Louisville’s Counseling Center is available by phone at 502-852-6585 on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

 

Refrain from reading the news too much.

Syndicated news channels spin the news in their favor. Stories about tragedies related to the virus can incite panic and negative emotions. The CDC recommends taking healthy breaks from social media and television reports about the pandemic. 

When you do use social media, be sure to verify your news sources.

Local governments will usually have the most up-to-date information. Don’t read too heavily into the information you see posted on social media. Anyone can post false information on Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, etc. Don’t fall into the traps of clickbait news. By carefully choosing your sources of news, you can prevent stumbling upon false information that could cause worry.

 

Take time to enjoy activities while socially distancing.

Practice hobbies that can keep you socially distanced, but can still be done with friends. Some hobbies can include reading, writing, drawing or even coding.

U of L Counseling Center Director Aesha Uqdah gave students tips for coping with the pandemic, such as being creative at this time. 

“Engaging in creative activities can reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Creating some sort of art or writing can help you process your emotions in a productive way. It can also produce calming effects on your brain and in the body,” Uqdah said.

The Counseling Center is hosting virtual group art therapy sessions on Fridays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. starting Sept. 18. 

On Aug. 25, U of L is hosting a virtual RSO Fair for students to become involved in their Louisville community. This is an opportunity for students to look for activities that can let them separate from classwork.

 

Keep in touch with friends and family.

Take time to text, call or video chat your friends and family. Touch base with the people you care most about and let them know that you are alright. This could relieve worries for those of us who become preoccupied with the wellbeing of loved ones.

Take care of yourself physically too.

If you aren’t taking care of yourself physically, chances are your mental health will be affected. Eat a balanced diet, drink plenty of water, and keep up a regular sleep schedule. 

U of L’s Belknap campus has plenty of walking trails. With approximately 274 acres of land, the downtown campus is perfect for students looking to get some exercise into their day. Even walking from campus housing and between buildings can improve physical health. Improving physical health will improve mental health.

Make sure you put your health first. It might seem more worthy of your energy to worry about others. However, if you aren’t taking care of yourself, you can’t put in your full effort to take care of those around you.

File Graphic // The Louisville Cardinal

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