By Nadia Wilson
As universities prepare to close for the holidays, faculty and staff urge students to take COVID-19 seriously. With COVID-19 cases increasing in Tallahassee, it is imperative that students get tested before going home to spend time with their families for the holidays.
COVID-19 cases are rapidly increasing across Florida. As of Thursday the Florida Department of Health reported 13,148 new COVID-19 cases and 101 newly verified deaths. The cumulative number of cases in the state is 1,168,483 and the reported death toll for state residents is 20,305 since the start of the pandemic.
Large gatherings before the holidays did not help control the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, multiple Tallahassee students tested positive after attending events that took place at Bajas Night Club and GVO prior to Thanksgiving break.
According to Tanya Tatum, Florida A&M University’s director of Student Health Services, students were expected to slow down on outside activities before going home for the holidays.
“We hoped that students would limit their activities at least a week prior to leaving for break, a sort of mini quarantine that would reduce their exposure and lessen the chance that they would become infected and carry the virus home with them,” said Tatum.
Students who have tested positive for COVID-19 and live on campus will not have to travel for the holidays. The University has set aside apartments on campus for isolation. Student Health Services has also made accommodations for those who have been affected, as far as providing meals, and consistently monitoring sick students.
“Students who test positive for COVID-19 before the holidays that live on campus are able to move to the apartments we have set aside for isolation. They will not have to travel if they are positive,” said Tatum.
A letter was sent out November 13, by Dean of Students Bomani Spell implementing another curfew beginning the following day for students who live on campus. This letter was submitted due to the influx of cases consistent with the national trend of students not adhering to social distancing and mask-wearing requirements. Students were instructed to be in their assigned residence hall from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.,on weekdays and from 12 a.m. to 6 a.m. on the weekend.
According to FAMU Student Government Association Vice President Carrington Whigham, “The curfew has kept students safe, as an effort to keep students away from some of the larger crowds or events that happen at night, to keep students virus-free, while they plan to return home.”
According to FAMUs Covid-19 dashboard, 297 students and 45 employees have tested positive for the virus since August 1. During the month of December, 11 FAMU students reported testing positive for the virus.
For the spring semester 2021, the University is highly encouraging students to test for COVID-19 prior to returning. Traveling throughout the duration of the break raises concerns for the FAMU community, but a reopening plan is in the works for the safety of students and staff.
“Everyone is expected to go through the same COVID-19 screening to make sure we are all safe returning to campus,” said Whigham.
FAMU President Larry Robinson sent out a statement on December 2 hoping to ensure safety for students and staff. The University has decided to expand the period of remote learning to start the spring semester to January 15. The University plans to remain closed on Monday, January 18 to observe the number of cases that might spike following the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
“In-person instruction will begin on Tuesday, Jan. 19, for all spring semester face-to-face, hybrid, and HyFlex classes. This additional week of remote classes is designed to give the University more time to test members of the campus community for COVID-19 and help us reduce the potential for community spread of the virus.”
It is very likely that students will help contribute to the spike in COVID-19 cases. Students traveling over the winter break that may be unaware they are infected with COVID-19 is a significant factor, although not the single contributing factor. With temperatures fluctuating, the virus has more chances of thriving, especially in cooler weather. Flu season is also on the rise and infection with another respiratory virus leads to increased susceptibility for other infections.