- 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)
Trump Signs Order Allowing Former Troops to Be Called Upon for Coronavirus Fight
- President Trump signed an executive order that allows for former troops to be brought back to active duty to help fight the coronavirus pandemic.
- This is not an immediate order to call former service members back, but it is typically used when the military is in need of specific skill sets, like persons with high demand medical capabilities.
- Officials are still reviewing who might be activated.
- The order comes just days after the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s response efforts. Over 14,000 have expressed interest as of Friday.
Trump Signs Executive Order
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that allows the Pentagon to bring former U.S. troops and members of the National Gaurd and reserve back to active duty to help those already battling the county’s coronavirus outbreaks.
During his press conference Friday night, Trump said the decision allows the federal government “to mobilize medical, disaster and emergency response personnel to help wage our battle against the virus by activating thousands of experienced service members including retirees.”
“We have a lot of people, retirees, great military people — they’re coming back in,” Trump added.
What This Means
The executive order released by the White House states that anyone recalled can remain on active duty for up to 24 months straight. It provides the Department of Defense and the Department of Homeland Security the authority to order as many as 1 million individuals at one time, however, it is not an order to do so.
According to Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman, the order applies to units and individual members in the National Guard and Reserves and certain Individual Ready Reserve members who are normally in an inactive status.
Hoffman said that decisions about who may be activated are still being reviewed, but he added, “Generally, these members will be persons in Headquarters units and persons with high demand medical capabilities whose call-up would not adversely affect their civilian communities.”
As of now, the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense, and nearly 11,000 of those members “have medical capabilities.”
“This is a dynamic situation, we do not currently have a projected number of expected activations, but the Department is now fully authorized to make activations as needed,” Hoffman said.
He also stressed that the departments would consult with state officials before using any National Gaurd Reserve Component units under the executive order.
Earlier this week, the Army called upon former service members to voluntarily rejoin and help in the military’s pandemic response efforts. The Army said the initial response has been positive, with at least 14,6000 people expressing interest as of Friday.
See what others are saying: (Politico) (CNN) (Fox News)
FDA Authorizes Portable Test Kit That Can Detect COVID-19 in 5 Minutes
- The FDA has approved the use of a new coronavirus test kit that can give positive results in as little as 5 minutes and negative results in 13, leaps faster than the hours and sometimes days laboratory tests normally take.
- The tests are run on a lightweight and small portable device that can be used in emergency rooms, urgent care clinics, and even outside hospital walls.
- Abbott, the medical device company that makes the kits, plans to send out 50,000 tests a day starting next week.
New Test Approved
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave Emergency Use Authorization to the medical device company Abbott for a new coronavirus test kit that gives results within minutes.
Abbott announced the news in a Friday press release, saying it plans to start delivering 50,000 tests a day beginning next week. The tests run on the company’s ID NOW platform, a portable device about the size of a small toaster than weights only 6.6 pounds.
Its portability means it can be used directly in an emergency room or urgent care clinic and even, “outside the traditional four walls of a hospital in outbreak hotspots.”
The company called it “the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of novel coronavirus(COVID-19), delivering positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results in 13 minutes.”
Second Rapid Test to Be Approved by FDA
The approval from federal health officials means that regulators were satisfied with the test’s validation data and are confident that its benefits outweigh any risk, like false positives or negatives.
The FDA’s approval marks the seconds time it has green-lit a fast working test that could accelerate testing across the country. Last week, it approved a 45-minute rapid point of care test by the molecular diagnostics company Cepheid. However, that test is primarily intended for emergency rooms and hospitals, not doctors’ officers or urgent care clinics.
Still, those turnaround times are leaps faster than the hours to days it takes most laboratory tests to bring results.
Medical Shortages Still Cause Concern
The approval of the Abbott test comes as cities across the nation battle with numbers of potential patients that surpass available tests and resources. Even with insufficient testing, the United States became the country with the largest number of reported cases of coronavirus on Thursday, exceeding China and Italy. By Friday, the U.S. hit more than 100,000 cases.
Many fear that shortages of other critical medical equipment, like masks and swabs, could stifle the new rapid test’s impact. That’s because the kit requires a swab sample collected from patients, and many health care facilities are running desperately low on the tools needed to safely collect those samples.
The Center for Disease Control issued guidance Tuesday that allows some patients to collect their own nasal swabs in health care facilities, in an effort to reduce the amount of protective equipment needed for health care workers.
On the opposite end, however, others note that fast and efficient testing can help medical professionals determine how much protective equipment they actually need to wear when interacting with a patient, as well as what kind of care to provide. Since this test can be done in a doctor’s office, it could even potentially help diagnose patients with mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus and help stop them from unknowingly spreading it.
Experts also say drastically increasing testing capacity can help get the economy back on track sooner. With increased testing, measures like keeping everyone at home could be replaced with more targeted identification and isolation of those infected.
EPA Limits Environmental Regulations During Coronavirus Crisis
- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Thursday that it is scaling back its enforcement of environmental rules during the coronavirus emergency as businesses face challenges like layoffs and accessibility issues.
- The temporary policy allows companies to monitor their own compliance with environmental laws, and the EPA said it will not issue penalties for violations of certain reporting requirements.
- Many critics slammed the move, arguing that it opens doors to excess pollution and does not prioritize the health and safety of people and wildlife.
- The EPA defended the policy, saying it has reserved its authorities for situations other than routine monitoring and reporting and will consider the pandemic’s impacts on a “case-to-case basis.”
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says it will limit the enforcement of certain regulations as the coronavirus pandemic continues, leaving companies in charge of monitoring their own compliance with environmental laws.
The agency unveiled the temporary policy on Thursday, arguing that businesses are running into obstacles like layoffs and accessibility issues as the virus alters normal life across the nation.
“EPA is committed to protecting human health and the environment, but recognizes challenges resulting from efforts to protect workers and the public from COVID-19 may directly impact the ability of regulated facilities to meet all federal regulatory requirements,” EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement.
Under normal circumstances, companies must report when their facilities release a certain amount of pollution into the air or water. Now, that requirement will be put on hold for the time being.
“In general, the EPA does not expect to seek penalties for violations of routine compliance monitoring, integrity testing, sampling, laboratory analysis, training, and reporting or certification obligations in situations where the EPA agrees that Covid-19 was the cause of the noncompliance and the entity provides supporting documentation to the EPA upon request,” the policy states.
The agency also said it would exercise “discretion” in enforcing other environmental rules. It noted that the policy does not apply to criminal violations or hundreds of the country’s most toxic waste sites that fall under the Superfund act. The EPA also said it expects public water systems to maintain high standards.
“Public water systems have a heightened responsibility to protect public health because unsafe drinking water can lead to serious illnesses and access to clean water for drinking and handwashing is critical during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the policy says.
The memo said that the changes will apply retroactively beginning on March 13, with no set end date indicated.
Criticism of New Policy
Some, including people in the oil industry, had been asking for these regulations to be loosened, but others slammed the EPA’s choice, claiming it is too broad and lax.
Gina McCarthy, who headed the EPA under the Obama administration and is now president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, called the policy an “open license to pollute.”
Some called the changes “outrageous” and “evil,” accusing the EPA of prioritizing businesses over the health of individuals and wildlife.
Prominent figures in the climate change fight slammed the move as well.
“The EPA uses this global pandemic to create loopholes for destroying the environment,” teenage climate activist Greta Thunberg tweeted. “This is a schoolbook example for what we need to start looking out for.”
Others pointed out the irony of suspending rules that preserve air quality while a respiratory disease makes its rounds across the country.
“What part of, ‘air pollution increases our vulnerability to respiratory diseases LIKE CORONAVIRUS,’ is not clear, EPA?” one Twitter user wrote.
Defense of Policy
The EPA stood behind their move and did not agree with its classification as a dismissal of regulations.
“It is not a nationwide waiver of environmental rules,” Andrea Woods, an E.P.A. spokeswoman, told The New York Times. “For situations outside of routine monitoring and reporting, the agency has reserved its authorities and will take the pandemic into account on a case-by-case basis.”
Susan Parker Bodine, the EPA official who issued the policy, said that it does not excuse organizations from consequences if they do committ environmental violations.
“If you do have violations of your permit, you’re still obligated to meet your permit limits, you’re supposed to do everything possible,” Bodine told ABC. “And after the fact the agency will take that all into consideration but there isn’t a promise of no penalties in those kinds of situations.”
“If you have an acute risk, if you have an imminent threat … the facility has to come in and talk to their regulator, their authorized state or come into the agency,” she added. “And the reason for that is that we want to, we want to put all of our resources into keeping these facilities safe keeping communities safe.”