For the past year, governors across the United States were urged to implement COVID-19 restrictions. Here in Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey implemented some, until recently. In the past couple weeks, as the rollout of vaccines increased to over 3.5 million doses administered, Ducey lifted many of these restrictions.
Across Arizona, bars and restaurants do not have to require guests to wear masks and, with that, crowds are becoming more frequent. As quickly as social gatherings are resuming, vaccines are becoming more accessible.
Sitting down with several University of Arizona students, some fully vaccinated and others only on their first dose, revealed how news of these updates is being taken.
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Ruby Heinonen is a UA student who received her first vaccine dose and is due for her second shortly. Heinonen reflected on what her experience with receiving the vaccine was like.
“I was able to get the vaccine because I completed a number of [shifts] volunteering at the UA [Point of Distribution] Site on campus. Everyone there is super excited for you to get your shot when you arrive and it made me feel super comfortable. After you receive the shot, you must wait 15 minutes before you leave to make sure you aren't light-headed or have any reactions to it. My arm was sore for a few days after but that is the only effect it had on me physically,” Heinonen said.
When asked how she feels the vaccine correlates to her social life, Heinonen touched on what she will begin doing differently once she has both doses.
“I think once my roommates are vaccinated and I receive my second dose of the vaccine on the fourth, I will definitely start to be more social. This year has been a huge struggle and finally being able to see people without feeling a sense of guilt is going to be really relieving,” Heinonen said. “Because I am now vaccinated, I feel like lifting the mask mandate doesn't really affect me personally. However, I know that there are still a lot of people who have not been able to get vaccinated, and having these restrictions lifted when there are still so many vulnerable people in our community is super concerning.”
Although Heinonen does not personally feel affected by the lack of masks and restrictions, she did acknowledge her general fears about the swift transition to complete openness.
“I personally think that it is still too early to be lifting restrictions. I think Arizona should have waited till at least May to lift the mask mandate. Hopefully, more people will be eligible to be vaccinated by then but right now, it still seems too early,” Heinonen said.
Marlo McElroy is another partially vaccinated UA student. McElroy touched on the circumstances that allowed her to receive the vaccine.
“My roommate and I were sitting around one Sunday and a friend of ours who worked at the point of distribution sent a message saying that anyone who wants a vaccine could hurry and come. All six of me and my roommates just piled up in a car and somehow managed to all get vaccinated,” McElroy said. “It was pretty unexpected. I am a student worker and have been trying to get an appointment for a while and was never able to.”
McElroy explained her initial reaction to news of the reopening on campus and throughout the state.
“I feel as though it is an exciting step forward and I think the fact that the University is moving forward into Phase 3 as well is interesting,” McElroy said. “The University is definitely taking this all very seriously so to see the trust between the school and state excites me.”
Kamryn Buckwalter is a UA freshman who, unlike McElroy and Heinonen, is fully vaccinated. Buckwalter received her second dose on Feb. 28, making her over one month into being fully vaccinated.
“I volunteered at the State Farm Stadium with my mom and cousin so we could all receive it. I got it because I am super close with my grandparents and I would do anything to be able to hang out with them. Also, it protects yourself and others and it was available to me. There’s no reason not to,” Buckwalter said.
Lately Buckwalter, like many, has had a limited social life because of both the pandemic and state-wide restrictions, but she expressed her eagerness to be more social now.
“Because I got it and it has been a while since my second dose, I finally get to see my grandparents this weekend. I couldn’t be more excited. I will definitely start to do more social things especially because more is being allowed, but, of course, still keeping in mind that there is a pandemic going on and not everyone is vaccinated,” Buckwalter said.
For Buckwalter, fewer restrictions are exciting, yet she still has some precautions.
“I think that some restrictions being lifted are okay, but some things are not,” Buckwalter said. “I believe it’s totally great that places are opening up more and more. For example, I get to hang out in my sorority house, however, the mask mandate being lifted is in no way going to benefit anyone. Masks don’t hurt or restrict, but they do protect and slow the spread, and I don’t fully understand the benefits of getting rid of that yet.”
According to a March 25 press release, Ducey announced Arizona as a whole will continue pushing for the vaccination of residents and for those newly eligible. More information can be found at the Arizona Department of Health Services website.
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