Since COVID-19 has taken over 2020, there is a ‘new normal’ that influences everyone’s lives. Students, faculty and staff had to switch to remote learning (and work) format very quickly after being sent home early last semester. After Illinois’ shelter-in-place order in March, Blackburn started to plan ways for students to come back to campus for the 2020 fall semester safely.
Blackburn gave the students and faculty the choice of coming back for in-person classes or staying remote. There are many changes to campus life so that everyone will be as safe as they can. These changes included implementing special protocols for work and classes, deep cleaning buildings, making one-way paths and mandating masks in all buildings. Blackburn also put certain protocols into effect in the event that someone on campus tests positive for the virus.
Isolation is for those who are known to have the virus, whereas quarantine is for individuals who have been in close contact with someone who is known to have the virus or showing symptoms linked to COVID-19. Provost John McClusky said, “The Macoupin County Public Health Department had several criteria put in place for quarantine and isolation spaces. Isolation spaces should have a private bathroom.” Graham hall was designated as the isolation area because it best fit the criteria. For those who have to go into isolation or quarantine, McClusky said, “with the exception of personal hygiene and the opportunity to go outside, individuals must stay within their rooms, while attending work and class remotely. Because of the confined quarters, students are encouraged to return home if they can do so safely.”
After students began to move onto campus, the public health department suggested that the school implement a third level of “yellow” quarantine spaces, which is for students who are showing multiple symptoms of COVID after being exposed. Given the location of Stoddard first floor and it being segregated from the normal quarantine spaces, Stoddard was the best space.
There are a number of factors that could prompt the college to go completely online. Macoupin County Public Health could prompt Blackburn to go remote due to the number of cases in the area or if cases on campus get too high. McClusky said, “We are looking closely at the level of transmission within the Blackburn community. We are tracking the usage of our isolation and or quarantine space, our ability to deliver services to those in isolation and quarantine and whether we have sufficient workers in areas to provide critical campus services, such as DING and Campus Services.”
Senior Sports Management major Christian Padilla is a student who was recently released from quarantine. “It was bad at first,” he said. “Before classes started, I watched a lot of Netflix and Youtube videos. Once classes started, it was a little better, but still no one wants to be locked in a room 24/7 for 14 days.” Padilla said he was in contact with Chef Nick to get meals. Padilla began his classes remotely. “The [internet] was not good and I couldn’t hear sometimes, so I’m a little behind,” he said. Outside of leaving the room to use the restroom, Padilla said that he, and the others in isolation, got to go outside for 30 minutes. He stated, “Coach Nick Morgan would take us to the field to get some fresh air. Coach Oz also took us outside a few times, so shout out to both of them.” Padilla also said that the staff at Blackburn was “definitely doing their part. They checked up on us and made sure we had everything we had.”
Elementary Education Major Kaitlyn Weigand was also recently released from isolation. Weigand stated, “[isolation] was pretty boring , but that is to be expected.” She was able to pass the time with exercise, homework and watching a lot of Netflix. Just like Padilla, Weigand was given a menu of food that Ding was offering, she would place her order, then someone would drop it off at her door. Weigand was in Graham, so she did not have to deliver and pick up her laundry like Padilla. Weigand was allowed to go outside twice a day for an hour. Weigand spent her time outside doing some exercise, homework and enjoying the sunshine and fresh air. Weigand advised that anyone else going into isolation, “should bring things that aren’t electronic, like books, journals, arts and crafts, etc. You are there for two weeks, so prepare as much as you can.”
Although no student initially plans to go into isolation, there is some level of preparation that needs to be done. Students should consider having a bag ready with things that they will need if they get put into isolation. This bag can include things like an extra phone charger, a blanket, hand sanitizer and towels. Have a bag packed and ready to go. This way, a student can tell their roommate, or whoever, to grab that bag plus what they need for classes. Given our current situation, no one can be too prepared or too safe.
COVID-19 hygiene is crucial to keep our community safe and to avoid going to remote learning. McClusky would like to friendly remind students to: socially distance, wear their masks correctly and clean areas as they enter. Students also need to keep in mind to keep taking the COVID-19 screening daily. Those who repeatedly do not follow guidelines, either student, faculty or staff, will be asked to leave campus.
Keep wearing masks, wash hands often, wipe down surfaces and maintain social distance, and we can get through this together.