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VSU needs to rethink reopening the campus

While VSU has brought relief to many students with the announcement of reopening campus for Fall 2020, that doesn’t change the fact that COVID-19 will still be active.

On June 8, VSU updated their website under “Coronavirus Overview” informing students, faculty, and staff of the new guidelines following the reopening.

The campus operations guide includes a “three-phase plan” to help the university adjust to public health recommendations and lower the risks of the virus spreading, including social distancing, frequent temperature checks, and frequent cleaning. A part of “Phase 3” is to clean classrooms, restrooms, offices, break rooms, vending machines and elevators once a day in classroom and administrative buildings. Main entrances and highly used restrooms will be cleaned twice a day.

Classes start as early as 8 a.m. and end as late as 6 p.m. With VSU having a student population of 11,211 according to U.S. News, cleaning the most important places on campus once is not enough.

Even with the new guidelines VSU will be following in the fall, resuming face-to-face classes are not the safest decision due to Lowndes County having 1,150 cases of COVID-19 as of June 29. Lowndes County also peaked from 689 to 758 cases on June 16 making that the second largest increase of cases for the county, According to Valdosta Daily Times.

Regardless of how much planning and preparation VSU has put together, these case numbers are still rapidly increasing.

The Center for Disease Control  put out firm guidelines back in March to help lower the risks of retaining the virus, however wearing masks, gloves and social distancing does not cancel them altogether.

USG is not requiring students to wear face masks. According to their website, they posted an informational video regarding how students can play their part in staying safe on campus. In the video, they recommend leaving medical masks for healthcare works who need it the most.

Social distancing will be more complex to pull off in large lecture classes. Each class is being handled separately, so there is no single decision on how classes are being handled. Professors have the option of requesting for larger classrooms so students can social distance, but there aren’t that many big ones available. Dr. Rodney Carr, vice president of Student Success, announced VSU’s plan for social distancing in lectures in an orientation video posted to YouTube.

“We’ve looked at instead of putting 35 students in one class where your sitting pretty close to each other,” Dr. Carr said.

“We’ve looked at having a set of a Monday/ Wednesday option for that,” he said. “Part of the class will be in class on Monday, part of class would be in class on Wednesday, so it’s still face to face class but they’ll be a hybrid combination and a little bit of an online piece to that

This plan may conflict with students who have already planned out their schedules.  It could potentially move around the intended classes they had on those days, causing inconveniences in their schedule they had prior to these adjustments.

The dining halls and the Student Union are also big congregation areas for students which may make it difficult for VSU to implement social distancing guidelines. Some students will have to wait outside for the next available seat or until the capacity of students in one area is at the required CDC recommended number. With students already on tight schedules, they cannot afford to wait in long lines.

Housing requires two to three students in each of their rooms, also challenging the requirement of social distancing. Residence halls such as Lowndes, Brown, Patterson, and Langdale also have community bathrooms which would have to be thoroughly cleaned after every single use.

VSU’s student body primarily comes from Georgia and Florida. There are currently 79,000 cases in Georgia and 146,000 in Florida. With students constantly crossing the Florida-Georgia border, this adds to the risk of cases created on-campus.

There has not been a sign of risks decreasing or COVID-19 letting up anytime soon, so neither should VSU. Face-to-face classes are not safe and the chances of putting the university at such a high risk for a deadly virus in the midst of a pandemic is not the right decision.

Students need to remain taking online classes in the safety of their home. Classrooms and other areas of high occupancy would need to be cleaned after every single use. The safer option is to continue their quarantine to ensure maximum safety precautions. With time, students will become more adjusted to online classes making it easier for everyone to get into the flow of things.

This editorial was written by a member of the editorial staff and expresses the general opinion of The Spectator.

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