Marshall University has experienced a spike in the number of people on campus known to be infected with the COVID-19 virus. What’s happening on campus carries some lessons for the public at large.
As reported by HD Media writer Taylor Stuck, Marshall’s Office of Environmental Health and Safety on Nov. 6 sent an email to people on campus to let them know that over the previous two weeks, there had been a marked increase in incidences of COVID-19 among students at the Huntington campus. According to the university’s COVID dashboard, active cases were at an all-time high, with a jump beginning Nov. 2. At the height, there were 53 active cases, but the number had dipped to 50 on Nov. 6.
Marshall’s contact tracing protocols show that the recent increase in cases is not random or uncontrolled, the email said, and there is no indication the virus is prevalent in the campus community at large or that it is being spread via instructional contacts. Most of the new cases were found among three groups — athletic teams, fraternities and sororities, and students who have attended gatherings/football games without observing the precautions of mask wearing and social distancing. About 90% of the new cases found last week were identified through targeted testing of potential primary contacts who had already been asked to quarantine until test results were returned.
In a letter to students published in the Marshall student newspaper The Parthenon, Maurice Cooley, dean of students, reminded students of the Code of Conduct and the consequences of not following the university’s safety protocols, including suspension.
“It has come to my attention that during recent weeks there have been several disturbing incidents involving students choosing not to follow our COVID-19 safety guidelines, avoiding or requesting to opt out of required random COVID testing, non-compliance with contact tracing requirements, not practicing social distancing and/or refusing to wear a mask at required times and places. There is zero tolerance for disregarding these guidelines,” he wrote.
Many people don’t like the idea of wearing masks indoors, observing social distancing guidelines or being tested when asked. But until we have a vaccine, that’s the best defense we have.
We can argue about statistics and whether athletic contests should be played at all or whether masks really work. There comes a point where we put disagreements aside and do what we can to slow the spread of a disease whose long-term effects are still being studied. Responsible individual behavior is our best defense.
And if nothing else, masks, distancing and testing are a courtesy to the people around us. Is that too much to ask?