COVID College

By Declan Harris

Quentin Heyward, a flight attendant and purser at Delta airlines, left, and the Rev. Martini Shaw, right, an Episcopal priest at the Historic African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas, walk together, but apart, to maintain about a 6 foot distance, at the Race Street Pier in Philadelphia, March 26, 2020. Heyward and Shaw are friends who worked out at the same gym prior to the coronavirus. Now they walk at sunrise and sunset. (Jessica Griffin/The Philadelphia Inquirer/TNS)

In late 2019 a new coronavirus broke out in the Hubei Providence of China. The epicenter of the outbreak would eventually become the city of Wuhan. The virus spread throughout the world, taking its toll on countries such as China, South Korea, Italy, Spain, and the United States.

On February 11, The World Health Organization named the coronavirus COVID-19. “Under agreed guidelines between WHO, the World Organization for Animal Health, and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, we had to find a name that did not refer to a geographical location, an animal, an individual or group of people, and which is also pronounceable and related to the disease,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom.

The first case in the United States was on Jan. 19 in Washington state, where a 35-year-old man came down with a cough and fever. After that, the disease spread, making its way across the country.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as of April 17, 2020, the United States has 632,548 cases and 31,071 death. Nearly 29,441 of those cases are in Pennsylvania, 2226 of which are in Delaware County, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that there are 78,467 cases of COVID-19 in New Jersey with Bergen County having over 11,863 cases reported as of April 17, 2020.

New York which served as a hotbed for cases of COVID-19 report that there are more than 222,284 cases in New York as of April 17, according to the New York State Department of Health. 

COVID-19 first infected Delaware County on March 6; later that afternoon, DCCC President Joy Gates-Black emailed everyone at the college explaining that they would be closing the college locations over spring break to “conduct an extensive deep cleaning and sanitizing of all College facilities.”

March 12 the president’s office sent another email explaining that the college would be moving its face to face classes to an online format, as well as extending spring break by another week to give professors time to transition their courses to online.

Guinevere Paviglianiti, 19, a DCCC freshman communication arts theater major, said that she has been handling online classes by completing certain assignments on certain days to keep the feeling of structure. 

“Social distancing is hard as a drama/communications major,” Paviglianiti said, “but the [Zoom] classes give me a sense of company, so I think they’ve been very useful.”

DCCC student Zaire J Youngs said that adapting to an online format was difficult. “Adapting to the online course have been challenging for me,” Youngs explained. “Not all of my classes are bad but I struggle in chemistry really bad.” 

When classes were in person, Youngs said she was able to get help from her professor but since classes have gone online she can’t receive the same help that she once was getting. 

As part of their response to the outbreak and in keeping with the practice of social distancing, the College has also canceled all student activities. 

 “For the remainder of the semester, all student-related activities, including athletics, and external events are canceled,” Gates Black explained.  “Though we regret needing to take this action, we believe that an overabundance of safety is in the best interests of all who are part of the College community.” 

Meanwhile, Mark Finley, 19, a DCCC sophomore liberal arts major, who said he has been practicing social distancing from his home and going on a lot of walks, offered this advice for his fellow students: “Stay at home, not for you but your grandparents.”

DCCC will be extending the spring semester to May 11 which has also been made the final date for student withdrawals; the college will be holding final exams from May 12 to May 15.

Although the Spring 2020 commencement will be announced at a later point, the deadline for graduation applications was extended until March 31. 

Today, DCCC’s website states: “In accordance with Governor Wolf’s directive, the College’s physical campuses and centers will remain closed through April 30. However, all courses, student support services and College operations are occurring remotely. The College continues to serve students and the communities of Delaware and Chester Counties.” 

Elsewhere in the area, other colleges and universities have had the same response to the recent COVID-19 outbreak. 

A Doylestown Hospital staff member wearing protective clothing waits for the next vehicle to arrive at the coronavirus testing tent Thursday at Doylestown Hospital in Doylestown. Patients with a doctor’s prescription and have a reserved time, drive up to check-in and then are instructed to proceed to the testing area.

Temple University, a popular transfer institution for DCCC students, responded to the virus by keeping its students in the know through posts on their websites.

On Feb. 3, in a post on their website, Temple explained that they would be suspending college-related traveling in accordance with the U.S. Department of State’s recent level 4 travel advisory. By March 2, Temple students residing in dormitories had to move out. 

On March 11, Temple put out a statement that covered multiple topics. The first announcement read, “Temple University’s U.S. campuses will end in-person instruction on Friday, March 13.”

Much like Delaware County, Temple will be keeping some of its core student services available throughout the remainder of the semester. 

According to Temple, “Almost all academic student support services, such as the Writing Center and tutoring at the Student Success Center, academic advising appointments, and career counseling, will be in operation, but may be taking place remotely.”

Currently, Temple said that they are exploring options for grading. Executive Vice President and Provost JoAnne A. Epps wrote the following: “We will roll out more information about the grading options…, but I wanted to give you an outline in advance: 

  1. All students will be able to decide to keep the standard letter grades.
  2. Undergraduate students will be able to have some or all of their courses shifted to a credit/no-credit option.
  3. Graduate students will likewise have a pass/fail option.

As students start to think about these options, it’s important to understand that shifting from the current letter grades to the other options could impact their GPAs and the evaluation of their academic performance for graduate or professional school.”

On March 23, Temple released a post that updated readers on the new developments, the first matter of which was the status of commencement. “Just as you adjust to your new lives, we at Temple are working through some increasingly difficult decisions—one in particular that has not been made lightly and was made with heavy hearts,” the post said. “It is with great sadness that we share with you that our spring on-campus Commencement exercises will be postponed.” 

Later in the post, Temple did announce that commencement would take place on May 7. 

West Chester University, another transfer university popular with DCCC students, is taking similar measures to combat the COVID-19 outbreak. 

A day prior to their first post, WCU created their Infection Control Team, which consists of faculty members from several branches in the college, a decision that was announced on the university’s website: “Activated on Jan. 30, the Infection Control Team meets regularly to monitor the current situation, as well as to review the management and implementation of a health emergency plan.”

On Jan. 31, WCU posted information on their website regarding the virus and how they’re preparing for it. “Student Health Services providers are informed and prepared to assess, report and respond as required based on established protocols by the CDC and World Health Organization,” the website stated. “Any concerns will be reported to the Chester County Health Department for additional guidance on infection control.”

After this WCU didn’t say anything about the virus during all of February except that they would suspend their travel abroad to China, South Korea, Japan, and Italy.

On March 2, the college updated its website to wish students a healthy and safe spring break, making sure to include tips and telling students to stay updated by visiting the CDC’s website. 

Another WCU health update came on March 11 in a video, which showed its president, Dr. Christopher Fiorentino, standing in front of a purple filtered photo from West Chester’s campus. 

Fiorentino started off the video by reassuring listeners that as of March 11, West Chester doesn’t have any confirmed cases of COVID-19. 

Later in the video, Fiorentino announced that West Chester would be making their classes online. “We concluded that our best strategy for keeping the community safe and successfully completing the semester would be to halt fact-to-face classes and shift to alternate modes of delivery,” Fiorentino said. “That means that what had been in-person, face-to-face instruction at the beginning of the term, will not occur on campus for the rest of the spring semester.”

Towards the end of the video, Fiorentino explained that the college is making plans to refund students’ meal-plans and university housing.

Later in the month, Fiorentino would return with news regarding a staff member at West Chester who tested positive for COVID-19. The staff member had met with other individuals in their office, who were now self-quarantining. 

But Fiorentino emphasized that the risk of spread was low. “Public health officials are aware of this case and have advised us, that given the timeframe of when the faculty member was last on campus, there is low risk of exposure to students and employees,” he added. 

Elsewhere in the Keystone State, one of Pennsylvania State University’s Brandywine satellite campuses has responded to the outbreak.

On Feb. 28, Penn State Brandywine released a statement regarding actions that their college was taking in regards to the virus. Penn State had put restrictions on China and South Korea for university travel. 

More than two weeks later, a day after Governor Tom Wolf ordered the closure of all schools for two weeks, Penn State Brandywine announced that their Brandywine Campus would be closed from March 14 to April 3. Although spring break would resume March 16, the entire college would switch to online classes for the remainder of the closure. 

During the week of March 16, Penn State reported its first case of COVID-19 which came from its Harrisburg satellite campus.

 A post on their website wrote: “The campus was notified that a person became sick during the week of March 16, and was later diagnosed with coronavirus (COVID-19).” 

Later in the post, Penn State assured students that the spread was minimal. “The well-being of the community is the University’s first priority,” the website read. “It is important to note that no classes were being held during this time, and the vast majority of the campus community is working and learning remotely.”

One thing that DCCC, Temple, WCU, and Penn State have emphasized is that student safety comes above all, no matter the cost. For now, most colleges want their students to practice social distancing. 

DCCC communications major Frederick Dean Shegog, 37, wants people to make the most out of this situation. “I urge us ALL to use this time to create something to make the world a better place!” he said.

Contact Declan Harris at communitarian@mail.dccc.edu

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