A student vaccination clinic in the hockey arena meets the first major benchmark toward putting COVID-19 on ice at Notre Dame.

Author: Margaret Fosmoe ’85

Covid Vax Student Miranda Cuozzo Johnston Student Miranda Cuozzo receives her first COVID-19 vaccination dose. Photo by Barbara Johnston

The buzzer blares across the arena, a reminder that we’re just minutes away from action.

“IT’S OUR SHOT: 2021” reads the message on the scoreboard.

At 10 a.m., young people start flowing in, face masks in place and staying six feet apart in the auxiliary rink area of the Compton Family Ice Arena.

I’ve been in this room before, during public skating sessions and to watch curling competitions. But from now on, I’ll always remember it as the place where I witnessed hundreds of students get The Shot.

On this particular day, the auxiliary rink has been reduced to its concrete floor. The only things on ice are the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines, which need to be kept in super cold storage until just before they are administered.

Covid Pfizer Vaccine Cashore
Pfizer vaccine doses for the campus community. Photo by Matt Cashore ’94

Notre Dame operated the first-dose vaccine clinic from April 8 to 15, with second doses to be administered from April 29 to May 6. That means all students who want to be will be fully vaccinated before they leave campus for summer break.

Students arrive and move into six check-in lanes. There are 18 vaccination stations spread out across the north half of the large room. The south half contains dozens of white folding chairs, where those who get the vaccine sit for 15 minutes afterwards to make sure they don’t experience any serious side effects.

After 13 months of uncertainty, daily health checks and warnings to adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols, there is a new feeling on campus and in this arena.

It’s cautious optimism.

Many of the students who turn out for the vaccines are enthusiastic, smiles hidden behind their face masks. They’re eager to be here, get the shot and move ahead into the new normal. Whatever that might be.

Covid Vaccine Rn Sarah Ingle Johnston
Nurse Sarah Ingle prepares a vaccine dose. Photo by Barbara Johnston

I’m a volunteer for the day at the campus vaccine clinic, assigned as a scribe. I man a laptop computer, sitting near a trained medical staffer who is certified to administer the vaccine. I am paired with Mariflor Royeca, a registered nurse who works for University Health Services.

As Royeca prepares to give each injection, I find the student’s name and appointment on the computer. I then log the details — type of vaccine (Pfizer), lot number, date and which arm receives the injection.

Royeca fills out and hands each student the all-important vaccine card — their ticket to prove they have been protected against the virus.

Other workers wearing yellow “Parking Services” vests direct students to specific lines, checkout tables and the post-vaccine waiting area.

Notre Dame is encouraging all students and employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

Good news arrives in late afternoon April 15. At least 90 percent of Notre Dame undergraduates and professional students have either been fully vaccinated or have received the first dose of a two-dose series, University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC, ’76, ’78M.A., announces.

That means the University will soon reduce some of the on-campus restrictions designed to protect against the spread of the virus. Starting April 21, the University will allow student guests in designated 24-hour lounges in residence halls; raise the maximum number at informal outdoor gatherings from 10 to 25; eliminate the requirement to wear masks outdoors on campus for gatherings of 25 or less; and reinstall basketball rims and volleyball nets.

Notre Dame announced early this month that it will require all students to be fully vaccinated by August as a condition of enrollment for the 2021–22 academic year. (The University will accommodate documented medical and religious exemptions.)

Notre Dame and neighboring Saint Mary’s College and Holy Cross College are among at least 28 U.S. colleges and universities so far that have announced they will require students to be vaccinated in order to enroll for fall 2021 classes, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education.

The University has extended the on-campus vaccine clinic to include faculty and staff, as well as eligible family members of graduate students and employees.

Covid Vax Clinic Johnston
Compton Family Ice Arena, the scene of many shots with one goal over the past week. Photo by Barbara Johnston

Students and employees who get their shots off campus are asked to upload their vaccine cards to a secure portal, so the University can track the total number of individuals on campus who are vaccinated.

Campus surveillance and diagnostic testing continues at the testing site in the Joyce Center. The indoor mask requirement, physical distancing and daily online health checks remain in place.

The number of COVID-19 cases at Notre Dame has been declining, with an average of 6.7 cases a day diagnosed on campus in the past week.

That’s as COVID rates statewide are rising. On April 15, Indiana reported 1,408 new cases diagnosed the previous day and a statewide positivity rate of 5.0 percent. That’s the highest positivity rate since February 16. At least 12,789 Indiana residents have died from the virus.

At Notre Dame so far this semester, campus cases peaked on February 17, with 56 positive cases.

Inside Compton, hour after hour, students flow steadily through our line. As they depart, many offer their thanks or a thumbs up sign. They’ll be back in three weeks for the second round of vaccines.

We’ll conquer this virus, one shot at a time.

Margaret Fosmoe is an associate editor of this magazine.