Readjusting to life back on campus, or especially on campus for the first time, can be a daunting task in itself. This is not to mention the added stress of living in the midst of a pandemic and understanding the university’s guidelines for student safety. As cases in the country continue to rise after months of quarantine, though, following the university’s and city’s guidelines are imperative in ensuring the safety of our peers, friends and family members.
Since the first COVID-19 death in the United States in February, cases have risen exponentially around the world and the country. Months after the World Health Organization’s declaration of a global health emergency, President Trump declared a U.S. national emergency, triggering guidelines restricting gatherings throughout the country.
Around this time, the University of Tulsa notified students that classes for the fall semester would be moved online shortly before spring break. TU students studying abroad rushed home as programs were canceled. Political science junior Heath Fusco described coming back from studying in Spain, “If things seemed to change quickly in the United States, they changed even faster abroad — we went to bed one night under fairly normal conditions, and woke up the next morning to the announcement that the USA had raised their travel advisory to a level three, which requires all TU students to come home. In a matter of hours I had to take my last midterms, pack my bags and say goodbye, and I was home within less than two days.”
After months of almost complete lockdown, many states including Oklahoma began to reopen in May against the guidelines of the CDC. Since then, cases have continued to rise as cases in countries like Italy and Britain have started to fall. To date, the U.S. has reported almost 6 million cases with about 182,000 deaths. Oklahoma specifically has had more than 56,000 cases and almost 800 deaths.
Without a federal mandate for masks or against large gatherings, individual states and cities have been tasked with outlining guidelines to combat the rising case numbers. While Oklahoma has no statewide mask guidelines nor any limitation on gatherings, the city of Tulsa does have a mask mandate in place. Under Mayor Bynum’s mask mandate, individuals are required to wear face coverings when inside most businesses, workplaces and education institutions. Although the mandate has no outlined policy of enforcement, wearing a mask has been proven to significantly reduce the risk of spreading infection.
As schools and university campuses across the country have started to reopen, health officials worry that increased contact among students will lead to a spike in cases. Some universities, like Harvard and Moorehouse have announced decisions to move classes completely online for 2020-2021 school year. The University of Tulsa has announced several policies to protect students.
Classes at TU have been shifted to primarily be online and to accommodate for social distancing in the classroom through the Hybrid model that reduces the number of students in any classroom. When on campus, students are required to wear a mask whenever they are inside or outside and unable to physically distance. The Alexander Health Center requires students to report their temperatures and symptoms daily to ensure that students quarantine when potentially exposed to the virus. The symptom tracker can be accessed through the medical portal through the Alexander Health Center page on the TU website. Campus housing has similarly announced that visitors — both TU students and non-TU affiliates — are prohibited from private living spaces.
As students move back to campus and begin classes, it is increasingly necessary to hold ourselves and others accountable for our actions. Cases continue to rise in the country with no foreseeable end; without following guidelines on campus and in the city, we continue to put each other at unnecessary risk. While we all hope to see classes back in person, return to regularly scheduled club and group meetings and to see our friends without having to wear masks, the only way to achieve this is to stop the rise of cases.