Monday, November 23, 2020

Close contact in dining halls raises concern

By Mataeo Smith

The Center for Disease Control allows restaurant patrons to remove their masks upon seating to allow for eating. It seems like a legitimate way to reduce risk for COVID-19, but I’m not sure if it’s effective for every kind of restaurant.

Clinton Dining hall is doing no wrong by continuing to allow students to dine within the building, but the lightly enforced social distancing rules create risks for the elderly staff despite screens separating students from them.

Posters throughout Clinton remind visitors that a face covering is required. There’s no poster reminding visitors to stay six feet apart. The entrance of the dining hall becomes crowded when the dinner rush hits in the evening, and there isn’t a definitive capacity threshold in place. The entire dining hall could be a cesspool for the virus during the dinner times, considering students are still in close proximity to each other. Especially within the drinks line. Since the reopening of campus, Chartwells, a food company working in conjunction with College Auxiliary Services, has completely closed the beverage line off to students. It’s safe to say almost everyone who enters the dining hall will want a drink with their food, so the line can sometimes grow to outrageous lengths, with barely any social distancing.

Clinton has been sanitizing tables as students leave, but sometimes new students take their place before a worker has time to properly disinfect. Some workers at Clinton were relocated to the Kent Hall Cafe when it opened last month.

The worker assigned to dining room cleaning duties could suffer the most from these flimsy rules that aren’t really enforced. From what I’ve seen, no worker or supervisor has broken up a crowd exceeding 10 students or turned one away because too many students occupy the premises. As long as the students wear masks, they are free to enjoy their meal.

It’s not like Clinton hasn’t prepared for the arrival of students amid this pandemic, however. Every station has a glass shield installed, Chartwells stopped serving students buffet-style and required food, plates and utensils to be touched only by workers.

A few brave souls don’t even ask a worker for a fork or ketchup and just reach under the shield for it.

Workers are still not satisfied with Clinton’s precautions given the arrival of blue-card students. A student carrying a blue card has technically been somewhat exposed to COVID-19 but is still free to roam around campus. They are allowed to eat only at Clinton, which is required to be a take-out order. Workers with families are particularly concerned because the virus could follow them home.

With the amount of cases growing each week, students have seemed to distance themselves from the dining hall since early October. The last few weeks have been incredibly slow at Clinton with very few herds of students entering compared to the first week. Clinton should take the regulations more seriously in terms of enforcing CDC guidelines. At the very least, an occupancy capacity should be put into place despite the acute decrease in student meal swipes.

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