Spring Hill’s campus reports 56 active cases and 87 students in isolation after being on campus for less than a month.
Spring Hill’s rise in cases show that students are having a difficult time adjusting to Spring Hill’s new health and safety protocols.
On August 27, Spring Hill’s COVID-19 tracking board reported three student cases. A little over a week later, the dashboard displayed a towering purple bar graph showcasing 51 new student cases paired with 81 students in isolation.
Before school started, Spring Hill launched a web page entitled “Badgers Back,” which addressed necessary health and safety protocols for the semester. The page asks students to download the app Guidesafe, test before entering campus, along with other on campus protocols. Most notably, it asks all members of the SHC community to wear masks and maintain six feet apart.
However, after the substantial increase in cases last week, an email was sent to the student body from Head of COVID-19 Taskforce and Vice President of Student Affairs, Kevin Abel, terming the increase as “a threat to the continuation of the semester.”
Abel stated that this level of community transmission is “not sustainable” and is most likely due to students not adhering to social distancing guidelines and a lack of wearing masks.
When asked about what he thinks the main reason is for the sudden spike in cases, Abel responded, “I think when we look at our spreads and the common connections, a lot of it does relate back to gatherings.”
Gatherings. A term that was previously defined as a group of more than ten people; however, due to the spike in cases, there seems to be a call for a more restricted definition.
“What we have seen is that our allowance of gatherings in ten or less as long as they maintain distance and mask wearing has not been effective,” remarked Abel. He continued, “moving forward, to make sure our transmissions on campus are under control, I think that we’ll see gatherings being limited to who you’re living with.”
Junior Layne Carlson also agrees that gatherings have played a part in the spread of cases.
“One of the common misconceptions with gatherings is that people think that if you hang out with less than 10 people at once you’re okay. But if you’re hanging out with several groups of five and you’re positive, then you’re still spreading it as if you were in a group,” said Carlson. She also mentioned that while gatherings should be limited, Spring Hill needs to find a healthy compromise. “I don’t think limiting gatherings to just who you live with is healthy for one’s mental health. We need to find a balance with our friend groups that allows us to hangout and be safe.”
In addition to the more restricted definition, Abel added that there would be serious consequences for students who didn’t abide by the protocols.
Abel wrote in his letter to the student body that “any gathering inside a campus building, on campus grounds or at an off-campus location will result in the immediate removal of the students from campus for the remainder of the semester, whether hosting and/or participating in the gathering.”
The more controlled protocol has prevented campus organizations from meeting until September 21, and has also asked students to not hang out with anyone outside of their living space until community transmission is limited.
“Maintaining a six feet distance will determine how this semester would go,” said Abel. “I do think we will be able to make it to the end of semester, but I say that with the caveat that we will need complete buy in from our entire community.”
President Joe Lee also agreed with Abel that whether we make it the rest of the semester is up to the students. “We need to implore our students to do their part,” said Lee.
In this ever-changing season, students need to be aware of the health protocols as well as their own health. To look for more updates on Spring Hill’s response to COVID-19 visit www.shc.edu/academics/badgersback2020.