- Colleges across the U.S are shifting to online classes and shutting down campuses amid the coronavirus outbreak, leaving some students in tricky situations.
- Some don’t have the means to get home on such short notice and rely on their schools for housing, food, and work.
- Others have homes that don’t have Wifi or the resources needed to complete a college class.
- International students are also scrambling, as some come from countries where the coronavirus outbreak is much worse. Others rely on their homes and schools in America for their visas, immigration status, and ability to obtain future jobs and Internships.
Colleges Suspend In-Person Classes
As people all over the United States are frantically buying hand sanitizer and scrubbing their hands to the tune of Happy Birthday, the coronavirus pandemic is posing news challenges for college students.
Colleges across the country have switched classes from in-person to online for the coming weeks, and in some cases, for the rest of the academic year in light of the outbreak. Some schools have also closed campuses and asked students to pack their bags and head home. For many attending these colleges, the changes leave them with far more questions than answers.
From an education standpoint, the quality of learning is about to be severely lessened for students who study subjects that require hands-on learning. For many though, the end of face-to-face classes is the least of their problems.
With dorms and dining halls closing, students who have no other reliable options are left worried. In some cases, campus job closures mean students will go without their main sources of income.
International, Low Income, and First-Generation Students Impacted
Harvard University is among the many schools that have opted to switch to virtual learning. In a letter sent Tuesday, students were told not to come back to school after spring break.
“Students are asked not to return to campus after Spring Recess and to meet academic requirements remotely until further notice,” the letter read. “Students who need to remain on campus will also receive instruction remotely and must prepare for severely limited on-campus activities and interactions.”
This leaves students with just a few days to prepare to leave campus and professors with just around a week to figure out how to transition their curriculum from in-person to online. There is an application process for students to remain on campus, which the school is expected to look at “as soon as possible.”
According to Harvard’s student paper, The Crimson, the decision to have students work remotely could disproportionately impact International students.
Satoshi Yanaizu, a student in Harvard’s class of 2023 told the paper that he’s from Japan, where the coronavirus is at a higher risk.
“The town I’m from, we have like 70 cases already, the same as the entire state of Massachusetts. If I go back, I have no guarantee I will be in a safer environment,” he said to The Crimson. “It might be even worse.”
Aside from the fact that some hail from countries facing travel restrictions or worse cases of the virus, these students face added stress since they rely on schools for their visas, immigration status, and ability to get work and internships down the road.
The new precautions are also having an impact on those with great financial need. According to The Crimson, 15% of the student body is first-generation and 20% are on full financial aid. These students are already being hit particularly hard, facing the sudden costs of having to find transportation to get back home, alternative housing options, finding places to store their belongings, and losing the income of jobs they have to leave.
Some students are also worried that without the school’s resources, like the internet and computer labs, they won’t be able to keep up with the curriculum remotely.
“The only equalizer at Harvard is the fact that we all live together and have the same accommodation,” Nicholas T. Wyville, who is set to graduate in 2020 told The Crimson. “We live together, we eat the same food, we have the same faculty resources. But if you take away campus living and residential life then you take away that equalizer.”
The Crimson reported that students are trying to find ways to help one another find housing. Students have set up a Google spreadsheet that connects students who have housing to share with those who are looking. At least 80 students have reportedly signed up for it.
Students Take to Twitter
Harvard is just one of many schools taking these drastic measures amid the outbreaks, but the problems students face there are universal across other American colleges. Students at the University of California, Santa Barbara have taken to Twitter to express their frustrations about their classes moving online at least until April. The school briefly became a trending topic in the United States.
Like thousands of students nationwide, many were confused as to how this would impact the school and their education both in the short and long term.
Others felt the decision may have been made without the full consequences in mind.
Students at UCSB, as well as students at other schools, also felt that their tuition and housing costs should be adjusted since dorms are closing and their education is being impacted.
University of Dayton
Another school that gained a lot of media attention for their response to their school’s new changes is the University of Dayton in Ohio. There, in-person classes will be moved online until at least April 6. The decision was made on Tuesday, and later that night, a group of over 1,000 gathered on a campus street.
According to a statement given to Flyer News, the school’s paper, students were jumping on cars and throwing objects at police. Officers requested that the disperse, but after the group failed to comply, authorities launched pepper balls at students.
The chaos began at 11:00 p.m. and continued until 2:15 a.m. Police moved to clear the street, which eventually got students to disperse. One injury was reported.
There were several reports about this incident, with many calling it a riot. Some coverage seemed to imply that these events may have been to take a stand against the school’s decision to move classes online because of the coronavirus. It turns out, however, that the college kids were just doing what college kids do best: finding an excuse to party.
See what others are saying: (New York Times) (CNN) (Wall Street Journal)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.