Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, Blackburn College implemented several safety protocols for the fall 2020 semester in order to reduce the spread of infection on campus. Among those are requiring that everyone must wear masks indoors and maintaining social distancing when around others. There is also a COVID symptom app with a daily questionnaire to monitor one’s symptoms and determine when it is safe to attend in-person classes. Along with that, many professors must plan courses to accommodate both in-person and remote learning, while others are exclusively teaching remotely.
“I think the most noticeable difference is having the TV screens in each classroom to link the remote students,” said senior Spanish education major Ethan Mensing. “Another big change that I’ve noticed is that more of my professors are making use of programs like Google Classroom than… before COVID-19.”
In order to limit the spread of the virus while still allowing room for some social interaction, several buildings have a limited occupancy. Students are only allowed to have a maximum of four people within their rooms, though no outside visitors are allowed. There is also a decrease in campus events, compared to other years. “Ding looks a lot different from last year with the social distancing and other precautions taken. DCC and the residence halls are also a lot quieter and less lively than they normally are,” said Mensing.
Within Ding, many seats have been removed, leaving about one to two chairs per table. Tables are also spread apart. In order to enter, individuals must go through a one-way, roped-off line and get their temperature checked. Furthermore, workers now must serve food, beverages, silverware, and condiments instead of allowing people to serve themselves. As for residence halls, masks are required unless students are in their rooms with their roommates, showering, brushing their teeth, or washing their faces.
Athletic programs are also heavily affected by the protocols. In order to keep contact curbed for the time being, many seasons are expected to get pushed to either late fall or spring. “Sports are being handled very cautiously from what I know. Everyone is still being careful with sharing bottles and even touching each other,” said senior criminal justice major Matt Moseley, who is on the basketball team. “It has made practicing difficult, but the guys are still so close and positive about everything going on, so we have our hopes up for sure.”
The protocols also affect tutoring sessions. “In the time of COVID, this presents a unique challenge for us to redesign this program to ensure the safety of students and tutors, while also still making it a meaningful learning experience for the students,” Mensing said, who works as a Spanish tutor. “It seems that we are moving in a direction of having some of our duties in a virtual setting, and some in an in-person setting.”
As of now, there have been three positive COVID tests reported. However, Moseley stated, “It seems that a lot of people are getting away with breaking the rules, which in today’s world can lead to much worse consequences.” In hopes of continuing the protocols’ effectiveness, Mensing reminds students to keep their actions in mind and adhere to the policies, many of which can be found on the Blackburn website.