During the week of Oct. 14 to Oct. 20, one case was confirmed on the weekly COVID-19 update on Wednesday, Oct. 21, and none from Oct. 21 to Oct. 28. Since the beginning of the semester, there have been 21 confirmed cases of COVID-19. Despite in-person classes ending this fall semester on Nov. 20, the administration reminds students, faculty and staff to remain cautious in reducing the spread of the virus while the term is still in session.
With Halloween weekend approaching, President Miller shared a COVID-19 update message on Oct. 29, “We caution you to follow best safety practices by avoiding crowds, maintaining social distancing, wearing facial coverings, and washing your hands frequently,” Miller said.
He also advised the campus community that their actions this weekend could have far-reaching implications in the weeks to come. “No student wants to finish the in-person portion of the semester sick or in quarantine. Remember that there will be opportunities in the future to have the Halloween fun you’re used to, but this weekend in this environment is not the time.”
Associate Vice President for Campus Life and Operational Management, Jason Seward added, “The administration has continued to make necessary decisions with the community’s safety and wellbeing as the top priority. All policies and safety restrictions remain in place to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. We will continue to follow recommendations and guidelines from national and state officials.”
Heaven Johnson, a sophomore majoring in biology, commented, “I am very surprised that in-person classes have lasted this long for the fall semester. I honestly thought students would’ve been sent home around week three. I feel that the virus has made my college experience surreal. It’s like a fever dream. Everyone is wearing masks and far away.”
The reported cases of COVID-19 are based on students self-reporting using the LiveSafe app to complete a questionnaire of possible signs of symptoms, but this can raise skepticism of how many people answer it on a daily basis.
Niya Crocker, a transfer student in her junior majoring in biology, said, “My concern was filling out the LifeSafe app and how cases are calculated on the number of students who actually complete it. I live on campus and at first, the janitors weren’t doing deep cleaning, but it has gotten better. I also think there should be more cleaning stations in classrooms.”
“I’m shocked the fall semester lasted this long because everyone still does their own thing with work, visiting family, and trying to hang out with friends,” Crocker said.
Professor Rebecca John, assistant professor of education, said, “I prefer face-to-face instruction, but I had to keep in mind the 6 feet apart social distancing and health guidelines. My classes are flexible with one day virtually and another day for an in-person class. I realized that I can provide interactive activities and lessons by adapting to a virtual setting on Zoom.”
Additionally, spring semester registration is underway starting on Nov. 2 through Nov. 13 and changes have been made to the academic calendar due to the pandemic by eliminating spring break. In the Nota Bene Weekly Update delivered by President Miller via email on Oct. 29, he announced the academic calendar for the spring 2021 semester. “To mitigate the spread of COVID on campus, there will be no spring break. It’s going to be a busy spring with the condensed academic schedule and with fall, winter and spring athletics all in competition,” Miller said.
Miller expresses his gratitude to all members of the marlin community for the progress made through the fall semester. “I thank our students, faculty and staff for their resilience and understanding and trust that they will continue their commitment to the safety and health of this campus during the spring semester,” Miller said.
Professor John added, “Knowing that students and faculty aren’t having a spring break, I will have to consider how to promote healthy school life and work-life balance for my students and my own personal life. I would possibly include mental awareness and mindfulness practices to help students handle the stress of the upcoming spring semester. We will need to be mindful of how students are going to manage stress without a spring break,” Johnson said.
Colleges and universities in Hampton Roads have also reported cases in the past few weeks. During the week of Oct. 18 to 24, eleven cases were reported at Old Dominion University (ODU). The cumulative confirmed cases of COVID-19 at ODU that have been reported since July 21. are 153 positive tests. At Christopher Newport University, 21 active cases were reported as of Oct. 28 and updated daily. CNU has recorded 23 total cases since August and updates the cumulative number of positive tests monthly. Norfolk State University reported 22 cases from 21 students and one faculty member. William & Mary recorded fewer than 60 total cases since August.
By Tiffany Warren