Two Years into the Pandemic, Covid Fatigue Takes its Toll

Isabella Robinson, Lead Reporter

As the pandemic has progressed with infection rates rising and falling, Marshal and universities across the country have remained open and fully functioning through in-person classes, hybrid solutions, athletic and social events and dormitory-style living. These solutions, however, have taken their toll. 


Pandemic fatigue is no stranger to the students, faculty and staff at Marshall. Since March 2020, countless changes have come almost overnight with no trial run. Students, faculty and staff have had to figure out as they go how to work and live through these challenging and ever-changing times.  


Two years into the health crisis, though, many feel comfortable returning to normal after receiving vaccinations or recovering from the virus. The lack of normalcy frustrates many on campus. 


Matthew James, assistant dean of Student Affairs, has played an active role in providing input and developing the policies seen around the Marshall campus pertaining to the ongoing pandemic. He says that, through working with students, he has seen reports and symptoms of burnout rise alongside many of his colleagues. These often go overlooked when considering mental health.  


“The Covid burnout and Covid fatigue is very real,” James said. “We have data that is already showing that. Also, if you look at the mental health toll not only on students but also on colleagues. And the turnover rate has been extremely high because this pandemic has challenged us. It has challenged every professional, but especially those in schools.” 


For second-year student Olivia Moncada, the college experience has served its educational purposes, but it lacks what she had hoped for socially.  


I started college in the pandemic, so I found it really hard to be socially stimulated,” Moncada said. I know that all of the online learning was for the best and everything, but it was kind of a damper for the first year being very lackluster.” 


Is this the result of many students who graduated high school during the pandemic opting to attend their college courses online rather than in person? Potentially. It is not as simple as that though, Moncada explains, as this initially temporary solution of what the classroom looks like has become the default for those affected.  


That’s kind of all we have known for the past couple of years,” Moncada said. So yes, we are taking [classes virtually] because it’s the easier option, but at the same time it is what we are used to and it’s what we’re comfortable with.” 


Moncada said she is satisfied with the current policies implemented by the university to keep the campus safe. However, she wishes for a stronger sense of urgency among students to receive their vaccinations. Moncada said she is hopeful for a maskless future before she leaves college.  


If our community, or at least the students and faculty, were to reach that 70% vaccination rate of herd immunity—I don’t know if we are at that point yet or not—but if I knew that was a fact and it was very well broadcasted by the school, then I would feel comfortable being maskless,” Moncada said.  


According to an independent, student-led poll of 85 Marshall students, 52% responded that they believe the university should have more strict social restrictions and mask mandates; meanwhile, 48% responded that they would like to see the rules become more lenient.  


Assistant Dean James believes the data regarding community and campus infection rates shows that we can begin taking steps to go maskless.  


The pandemic, thankfully, seems that it’s on an ebb out. Vaccination numbers look great, and the infection numbers are going in the other direction which looks great,” James said.  


James also said that, based on the data, he believes it’s time to begin moving back to normal. 

James described his experience working as an administrator through the pandemic as a rollercoaster.” He said that the process of creating policies that keep in mind students’ and staff’s social well-being as well as their physical health has been a challenge.  


As administrators—just trying to navigate this too from our perspective—we are trying to come up with policies that are not just science related and health focused, but also policies that are common sense focused so that students can still have an experience on campus,” James said. “So, it has really been a rollercoaster.” 


Overall, James said he is pleased with and proud of the way that Marshall has managed the pandemic on campus.  


When you look at the data, Marshall has done an excellent job keeping our community safe. If you look at other schools, they are asking us how did we do it. And we have people that are writing papers that they will present in the future on how we managed and got through it (the pandemic) the whole time and never had to send everybody home,” James said. I know I’m biased, but a lot of folks tend to be critical of Marshall. But it’s hard to be critical when the data shows that we really handled this pandemic—knock on wood—that we are going out of the pandemic. We have handled it pretty well.” 


Marshall continues to have in-person classes, sporting events and social functions as more members of the community get vaccinated. Vaccines are available on campus Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Memorial Student Center for students and staff. The Counseling Center also offers to those with Marshall IDs support and tips on how to combat pandemic fatigue.