One College's Approach to COVID-19
By: Sarah Hardy
I am a month and a half into my senior year of college, and still battling a worldwide pandemic. If I am being honest with you, it’s both what I expected for my senior year but also not. I do have the privilege of being able to be almost 100% in-person with my classes and be on campus in general. This is a little peek into my life at a small private university.
First, all students came back like normal. Freshman moved in for welcome weekend, and the student body moved in with assigned dates and times. The biggest changes came when we entered our buildings. All doors were marked with “Enter here” and “Exit here” signs, and for the most part students abide by those still today. Air purifiers were put into every sleeping room on campus, as well as large gathering areas like the cafeteria. In terms of food services, long winding lines with 6-feet dots line the floors. Students have to know what food line they want, and faculty and staff monitor the line, calling out the number of the line that’s available. Food is given out in styrofoam (I cringe every time) containers, and we can only go through the line once with as much food as we’d like. Tables are only allowed four chairs each, and there is a placard to let us know which tables are clean.
In terms of mask policies, Minnesota has a mandatory mask policy, and the city had one in place before the state did as well. Masks are required in all buildings on campus, except when one is eating. If we are outside and maintaining a 6-foot difference, we can have our masks off. However, if we cannot maintain this outside, mask up! This is the biggest gray area because one moment you could be walking around nobody, and then someone shows up and you should put a mask on.
Sports are allowed to practice, but no games will occur this year. However, teams do not need to wear masks. They started by putting teammates in clusters for two or more weeks practicing together before allowing the entire team to work together. Theatre students are allowed to have shows as long as the blocking remains 6-feet apart, and masks or face shields are worn. No live audiences will be allowed for performances, so streaming is the way to go.
Each day our online tracking dashboard is updated with numbers of new student cases, faculty cases, and our total cumulative cases to the date. One thing I wish is that they would let us know how many active cases we have on campus, and how many students are in quarantine. We have hired contact tracers to make sure that any student who was in contact with a positive case will be notified. In terms of quarantine, anyone who has had contact with a positive case for more than 15 minutes without a mask is asked to quarantine for two weeks. Positive cases are sent to an off-campus housing location, while contacts are asked to quarantine in their rooms. For most of our students, a saving factor to the amount of cases we have had is that the large majority (about 90%) of our students live on-campus, limiting exposure in the community. We are allowed to leave campus, but anywhere outside of the county we should fill out a travel form for contact tracers.
As of right now, we have only had 27 total cases on campus within the 7 weeks we have been here. I consider that a huge win. On top of that, the University has already stated their plans for the Spring 2021 semester which includes an extended winter break and students on campus through graduation. This isn’t what I had in mind for my senior year, but I’m so happy that we have taken care of our community and the students all show their dedication to remaining here.