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Fast-Track Vaccines

Some college buildings are vaccination sites, but most faculty, students aren’t eligible yet

Kirk Carapezza Feb 24, 2021
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Taylor Davis, 61, teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She said college professors should be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine once K-12 teachers are eligible. “I am more concerned about what an 18-year-old is going to do in their social time than I am a fifth grader,” she said. Kirk Carapezza/GBH News
Fast-Track Vaccines

Some college buildings are vaccination sites, but most faculty, students aren’t eligible yet

Kirk Carapezza Feb 24, 2021
Heard on:
Taylor Davis, 61, teaches at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design. She said college professors should be able to get the COVID-19 vaccine once K-12 teachers are eligible. “I am more concerned about what an 18-year-old is going to do in their social time than I am a fifth grader,” she said. Kirk Carapezza/GBH News
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At the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, Taylor Davis is eager to get vaccinated as quickly as possible. 

“I definitely feel at risk and then I feel like my family is at risk,” said the 61-year-old who’s been teaching her sculpture and 3D design classes in-person throughout the pandemic.

Davis said college professors in Massachusetts should be able to get the shots once K-12 teachers are eligible.

“I am more concerned about what an 18-year-old is going to do in their social time than I am a fifth grader,” she said.

Massachusetts and some other states are enlisting colleges and universities as sites to help distribute COVID-19 vaccines to front-line workers and older residents. In many states, though, students, professors and staff are not on a priority list to receive the shots quite yet. That’s left some professors who are being asked to teach in person frustrated.

Inside an empty gym at Boston University, medical and essential workers waited in line at least 6 feet apart. They rolled up their sleeves and got the jab. But BU students, faculty and staff just returning to campus are low on the priority list for the shots in Massachusetts.

“I don’t think there’s an urgent need to necessarily immunize faculty and students,” said David Hamer, an infectious disease specialist who teaches at BU’s School of Public Health.

Despite research suggesting some colleges risk becoming superspreaders to neighboring communities, Hamer said testing and isolating infected students, faculty and staff at BU largely worked last semester. Still, he said, BU might have gotten lucky.

“If you think we dodged a bullet last time, now we have to dodge machine gun fire because we’re starting out in January with a large amount of virus circulating across the country,” he said.

 And that’s why others who study public health are worried.

“A public health approach is you don’t go into the machine gunfire,” said epidemiologist Michael Siegel, who also teaches at BU’s School of Public Health.  

Siegel said BU definitely got lucky last semester and wants the university to move all classes online. He pointed to the existing burden on local hospitals.

“Right on our own campus, the Boston Medical Center, the emergency staff, the nurses are pleading with us,” he said. “They’re telling us, ‘It’s a disaster in here. Please do not send us any more people.’ “

And Siegel said it’s the colleges’ responsibility to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 until the vaccine is more widely available.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What do I need to know about tax season this year?

Glad you asked! We have a whole separate FAQ section on that. Some quick hits: The deadline has been extended from April 15 to May 17 for individuals. Also, millions of people received unemployment benefits in 2020 — up to $10,200 of which will now be tax-free for those with an adjusted gross income of less than $150,000. And, for those who filed before the American Rescue Plan passed, simply put, you do not need to file an amended return at the moment. Find answers to the rest of your questions here.

How long will it be until the economy is back to normal?

It feels like things are getting better, more and more people getting vaccinated, more businesses opening, but we’re not entirely out of the woods. To illustrate: two recent pieces of news from the Centers for Disease Control. Item 1: The CDC is extending its tenant eviction moratorium to June 30. Item 2: The cruise industry didn’t get what it wanted — restrictions on sailing from U.S. ports will stay in place until November. Very different issues with different stakes, but both point to the fact that the CDC thinks we still have a ways to go before the pandemic is over, according to Dr. Philip Landrigan, who used to work at the CDC and now teaches at Boston College.

How are those COVID relief payments affecting consumers?

Payments started going out within days of President Joe Biden signing the American Rescue Plan, and that’s been a big shot in the arm for consumers, said John Leer at Morning Consult, which polls Americans every day. “Consumer confidence is really on a tear. They are growing more confident at a faster rate than they have following the prior two stimulus packages.” Leer said this time around the checks are bigger and they’re getting out faster. Now, rising confidence is likely to spark more consumer spending. But Lisa Rowan at Forbes Advisor said it’s not clear how much or how fast.

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