EDITORIAL: COVID-19’s impact on Reinhardt University
By James Gilbert, Editor-in-Chief
WALESKA, GA — These are historic times that we will long remember. As of Monday, March 16, 2020, Reinhardt University has moved all classes to be online for the first time in its existence. Due to the intimidating reputation of COVID-19, most students have chosen to leave the Reinhardt Campus to protect themselves from the novel coronavirus. Many who have chosen to stay either do not feel threatened by the virus or are international students who are unable to easily return home, given the uncertainty ahead of us. Because traditional classes have been converted to be online for several weeks at least, some stay because the internet connection fares better than does their home WiFi. The campus, though occupied with some staff and a fraction of its normal student population, looks and feels empty.
Per an email from the Dean of Students, members of the Reinhardt student body have been asked to document whether they are staying on campus and, if so, what their reasons for staying are. This comes at a time when most students have chosen to leave to quarantine themselves with family members and the like. Gordy Hall is almost empty during breakfast and lunch hours, and buildings such as the Black Box Theatre and the Falany Performing Arts Center will be closed beginning March 26, while the gym and the Funk Heritage Center have already been closed. Additionally, the Spring 2020 sports season has been canceled.
However, this crisis and these closures have not discouraged students and made them reflect upon the worst. Rather, it provides opportunities for us to find ways to embrace our situations. Communities have been strengthened through this shared pandemic experience. To help create a satisfactory experience while at Reinhardt, students have been figuring out ways to entertain themselves through study sessions, movie nights, and delivery dinners, as well as documenting their experiences during this strange and historic time.
The novel coronavirus, now called COVID-19, first represented itself New Year’s Eve 2019 in Wuhan, China. Coronaviruses are known for their effect on the respiratory tracts as well as the guts of birds and mammals—including humans—and have been associated with the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), pneumonia, bronchitis, and the common cold. In 2002, one strand of coronavirus reached across the world infecting people in 25 countries; in 2020, the COVID-19 coronavirus has reached 157 countries.
In his presentation during the Year of Nigeria event on March 11, 2020, Dr. Festus Adu, a virologist with the Center for Disease Control, told a group of Reinhardt students and faculty that “the lungs are the main body part that have receptors to accept the coronavirus.” A virus needs living things to latch onto to be able to reproduce and spread its genetic material. COVID-19 has evolved to last up to 72 hours on many surfaces. It is always best to be prepared by frequently disinfecting surfaces that are commonly used and touched.
Reinhardt has taken precautions to keep everyone on campus safe. Gordy Hall has started to implement daily preventive measures against the spreading of COVID-19. Hand sanitizer must be applied when entering the building, food is prepared on a plate by Gordy staff at all stations (excluding the pizza station), and all tables and equipment are disinfected at the beginning and end of every meal period as well as the beginning and end of every workday. In addition, Public Safety is ready to handle any threat, and maintenance is equipped to deep–clean every building.
As most of us know by now, the latest strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, most likely started in Wuhan, China, in a food market. Of the first 41 cases, 27 were traced back to Huanan Market as a possible place of origin.
This wet market holds animals from all around the world — deer, bats, chickens, goats, peacocks, and the list goes on. The animals are slaughtered on-site, where their meat is sold raw. Many well-known diseases that affect humans have been known to originate from animals (for example, HIV originated from chimpanzees). In such markets, animals are caged and piled up in unsanitary conditions, which may prove to be an unfortunate breeding ground for the new strain of coronavirus.
This new COVID-19 strain is more powerful than previous incarnations and has quickly spread widely across the world, much faster than the prior outbreak of a coronavirus in 2002. Media coverage has primarily focused on the statistics of those infected and those killed by COVID-19, which has led to much panicking during this pandemic.
Typically, viruses mainly affect the youngest among us; however, with COVID-19, this isn’t the case. Only about one percent of those affected have been children. This virus is proving most deadly to people in midlife and beyond, and especially to those with underlying health conditions. The primary information that everyone desires to understand is how to identify the symptoms of COVID-19 and prevent it from spreading further. This is called containment.
Based on previous encounters with coronavirus, within a two– to 14-day period, symptoms that manifest may include fever, cough, and shortness of breath. There is currently no vaccine to cure the virus, so individuals should exercise social distancing and stay about six feet away from others. A person who believes they have been affected by the virus should isolate themselves in a specific area. If you need to interact with others, wear a face mask, avoid sharing items with others, stay hydrated, and wash hands for at least 20 seconds at a time. This comes down to typical and common hygiene practices such as, thoroughly—and I will type this again, thoroughly—washing your hands, covering your mouth with an elbow to catch coughs, and resisting touching your eyes, nose, or mouth since these are the gateways for the virus to get into the body.
Close contact must come to a minimum to prevent the virus from spreading. This makes the switch to online learning an effective choice to mak
e. However, some students and faculty may find a disadvantage to an online classroom. From a personal point of view, my laptop just started to malfunction. Thus, technological issues, either hardware– or software–based, will have an effect on productive learning. In addition, some classes that require more hands–on application are not meant for an online format. However, Reinhardt professors are doing their best to meet this new challenge to create a successful and conducive online classroom environment.
Where this will lead, only time will tell, since conditions in our community, state, and nation are changing daily. Whether we return to the classroom in April or spend the remainder of the semester studying online, only time will tell. We are living through a historical moment.
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