Saturday, April 20, 2024

Editorial: COVID slyly sneaks up on students

SUNY Plattsburgh is finally seeing its first spike in COVID-19 cases on-campus, and it doesn’t bode well for students who are just trying to finish a semester that already feels overwhelmingly stressful.

In some ways, we were waiting for the coronavirus to sink its teeth into us. It was bound to happen eventually.

Nine weeks into the fall semester, students are not only being tested regularly for the coronavirus, but also receiving phone calls from contact tracers and told they need to isolate themselves — for who knows how long —  if they do test positive. Quarantined students on and off campus could’ve only come in contact with one of the positive cases, not knowing whether they have the virus but remain locked away from the world for the safety of everyone around them. It took one positive student. We don’t know who they are or what they did to contract the virus, but we don’t need to.

Whatever they did put all of us at risk.

These are scary thoughts. Imagine being a college student who can’t leave their dorm room or apartment. Imagine being a college student who has to do all of their coursework online and attend their classes remotely for two weeks straight. Imagine being a college student who can’t go to the dining hall to eat dinner with a few friends. Imagine being a college student who can’t go to a party and have a little fun or drink a little alcohol after a hard week of academics. Imagine being a college student who tests positive for COVID-19 and then starts showing symptoms. All of these thoughts could be going through the mind of a student at SUNY Plattsburgh in isolation. Just imagine how they could be feeling right now.

There’s a lot of uncertainty surrounding what happens when cases continue to increase in our community. There are things we as students simply don’t know. We know at least 100 active cases will cause the college to shut down, but we don’t know how long it would take to get to that point. We know the quarantine or isolation period is roughly 14 days, but we don’t know how our own individual immune systems will handle the virus before, during or after contracting it. We know all classes are prepared to switch to online learning if necessary, but we don’t know how this would affect our GPAs or academics in the long run.

One thing SUNY Plattsburgh should be proud of is its testing process. Without a solid plan for aggressive testing and contact tracing from the beginning of the semester, we could’ve ended up like SUNY Oneonta, who shutdown all in-person classes last month after 700 students tested positive. Our testing is necessary in order to find positive cases in our community, and knowing about those cases as soon as they happen is helpful, but that doesn’t mean students are comforted to get an email from President Alexander Enyedi about how many new cases have popped up within the past 24 hours.

More students could test positive today, tomorrow, next week and the week after that. We have to stay conscious of our risk spreading COVID-19, but in an environment where disease naturally spreads, college students are going to do what college students want to do. At this point, it’s a waiting game. We’re waiting for the cases to stop rising, for the people we love to stay safe and for the days to end without too much anxiety before we go to sleep at night. We’re waiting for COVID semester to be over.


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