With the announcement from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) suspending all conference athletic events and championships through the fall semester, we need to face facts about the virus. Returning to Shippensburg for the Fall 2020 semester will be a disaster for student and public health. Almost every aspect of college life would be near impossible following CDC social distancing guidelines. Schools like Harvard and Yale know this, already moving completely online this coming semester. I share everyone’s desire to return to our beloved campus, but we can’t jeopardize the health of our friends, loved ones and peers.
The COVID-19 virus has changed almost every aspect of day-to-day life around the world. We maintain social distancing and wear face coverings to prevent spreading the horrific disease to our vulnerable friends and loved ones. Many states, including Pennsylvania, are considering returning to “Stay-at-Home” orders, hoping to slow the spread of the disease. Despite many of our efforts, as of July 16, 2020, Pennsylvania has over 100,000 confirmed cases, with an average increase of more than 900 new cases per day.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), COVID-19 particles are spread airborne by humans coughing, laughing and talking, hence masks are now mandatory in most states. In close quarters, such as the approximately 13’ x 11’ B-suites at Ship, the virus can circulate the room quickly. People living in similar arrangements, such as nursing homes and prisons — such as SCI-Huntington, a correctional facility in central PA — experienced the virus spreading rapidly through those close quarters. Even young, healthy sailors on the U.S.S Theodore Roosevelt have had massive, unmanageable outbreaks.
The university, via their website, claims they are taking action to prevent the spread of the disease, such as placing hand washing signs and providing hand sanitizer (“while supplies last”). Assuming the university magically can find large amounts of elusive hand sanitizer, it does not stop airborne particles from spreading in the area, the primary method of contagion. A recent study done by Harvard University, published in The Harvard Gazette, discovered that air conditioners, like those found in every dorm on campus, can spread the disease through recirculation of air. These risks are not limited to dorms, but also labs, classrooms and offices.
I completely understand our reservations on having another semester online. I am currently scheduled to student teach this Fall and know my learning experience would be diminished in an online setting. However, I know social distancing in the classroom is impossible as schools lack the space to do so.
We can pretend that Shippensburg University can open safely, with every student social distancing in wall-to-wall classrooms of people. We can pretend all students will go directly home after class and not spend time with friends, party or go to the bar. We can pretend all students will wear masks correctly all the time. We can pretend signs and good intentions will somehow stop a deadly virus. Or we can GET REAL!
Secondary Education Major (History)