Reopening the school in any capacity must have been the worst idea possible. There was not enough preparation for letting students come back to Humboldt State University. While it is understandable that every student has their own reasons for living on campus, the risks are high. HSU President Tom Jackson made it clear that suspending move-in dates and face-to-face instruction until a later date was prejudice and not necessary.
With cases spiking in recent days, the community is at risk. In a press release from the Humboldt County Joint Information Center, people between 20 and 29 have the highest percentage of new COVID-19 cases locally. Young adults are becoming the primary carriers of COVID-19 and are spreading it unknowingly.
Humboldt County Health Alert recently rose to a Level 3, which means “High Risk- Many cases with conditions for community spread, with many undetected cases likely. Limit everyday activities to increase safety.”
Opening up the university to a thousand students in a single week is like pouring salt on a fresh wound. Although Arcata is open to tourism for the economic stimulation, the town was not ready for it. When Arcata first opened back up to the locals, the cases were low and stable. Then tourism started to pick up. Travel has put the community in danger and is a contributing factor for the rise in cases.
There is a large elderly and retiree population in Arcata and surrounding communities, like Eureka and McKinleyville. Humboldt County Public Health Officer Dr. Teresa Frankovich stated that the transmission can, in time, contribute to increased exposure for older individuals who are of higher risk of serious disease and even death.
Letting a large amount of students move in during the middle of a pandemic in a small town was not a good judgment call. The protocols and guidelines put in place by HSU can go wrong in various ways.
While the single occupancy rooms for student housing were supposed to be a way to shelter in place, there are common areas that the students will share with their housemates such as the living room, kitchen and bathrooms. On the Humboldt State Campus Ready website, it was vaguely mentioned that these common areas will be limited and if violations persist, they will be restricted. But with student housing employees matching one to every hundred students, the likelihood of knowing these violations are occurring are nearly impossible.
With five students and one faculty member having tested positive, HSU has made COVID-19 testing mandatory for student residents throughout the semester. However, the Student Health Center states on the Campus Ready website that testing will be done “in a limited capacity due to a nationwide shortage of tests.”
Regarding limited face-to-face instruction, the administration is putting the responsibility on the students to ensure they stay healthy. If a student were to test positive for COVID-19 while at HSU, it would be their fault for not following the guidelines to satisfaction, instead of the university’s for being open. The best way to keep students safe is to not have contact with other students. That risk became a reality when a thousand new, incoming students decided to move on campus.
Dr. Frankovich and President Jackson should not have agreed to open the campus in the first place back in June. There had to have been consideration of the possible influx of cases during the summer months with tourism. Not to mention, fall and winter months correspond with the influenza season. Incoming students will not just be battling COVID-19 but also the flu, the symptoms of which are almost identical.
There were a lot of important individuals that conversed in making these decisions. Unfortunately, the people being put at risk obviously weren’t a part of the conversation.