It doesn’t take Sherlock Holmes to notice the vast array of students with stuffy noses and sore throats roaming campus. In my own classes, it is rare that a silence on behalf of the professor is not met with a cough.
Last week, WVU beefed up the indoor mask mandate. Now, we have to wear them everywhere and not just in the classroom.
On my walk through the Mountainlair this past week, it was clear that nothing had changed. Students masked and unmasked still roamed about as they pleased.
From the beginning of the school year, the University has been confused and contradictory with their mandated precautions.
Then, students were to wear masks in class, but only in class. Now, masks everywhere, but with little to no enforcement.
Blaring inconsistencies lie with the logic, or lack thereof, of current policy. Wearing masks in classrooms is progress, until you take into account that those same masks are removed in the hallways outside. By extension, wearing masks inside is cautionary, until you take into account that those same students are gathering in an unmasked crowd of 60,000 at football games on the weekends.
WVU’s COVID policies have been nothing more than feel-good regulations to make the University look good on paper.
Take, for example, the conclusion of the freshman Welcome Week: Monday Night Lights. Masks were handed to each student as they walked into Milan Puskar Stadium for the class photo. The rest of the night went unregulated, but the visual record was pristine.
Meanwhile, WVU Medicine’s flagship Ruby Memorial Hospital is bustling with COVID-related cases and, as of Saturday, Sept. 18, had a waitlist of 10 people to be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit. Additionally, West Virginia remains the state ranked second in the country for the recent transmission of the disease.
The University’s lackluster nods to the global pandemic may be easing the minds of parents, but they are of no assistance to the already inundated local healthcare system.
Despite being the largest hospital in the state, Ruby Memorial is now keeping patients in pre-op and post-op rooms because there is simply nowhere else to put them. Albert Wright, CEO of the WVU Health System said it himself: “I just don’t think people realize how bad it is.”
And yet, the University still doesn’t seem to understand the severity of the crisis at hand.
At the moment, students who have failed to complete the “mandatory” COVID-education module, which was due at the end of August 2021, and haven’t committed other COVID-related infractions face no repercussions. In addition, 430 students have refused to get tested after a formal request from the University and at least 25 have dodged or violated quarantine and isolation protocols.
And most simply, unmasked students inside of university buildings walk unchallenged and uncontested.
The bottom line: COVID cases across the state are quickly adding up, but the way that WVU is handling the situation is not.