COVID-19 raised a lot of questions in regard to how to re-open Mercyhurst safely for the fall semester.
To do so, Mercyhurst had to adjust class sizes and schedules, increase sanitary efforts, implement to-go options for the dining halls, make changes to athletics and much more.
The university did a great job with keeping our students and faculty healthy, which was evidenced by the low number of active positive cases on campus. However, this changed the last weekend of October with a rapid spike in coronavirus cases.
The first cluster of COVID-19 cases was identified on Oct. 30. From the week of Oct. 26 to Nov. 1, there were 36 new active positive cases, with four of those cases affecting employees. During that week, 34 new students were in quarantine due to known close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual.
Changes were also made to halt athletic practices, meetings and events to ensure that contact tracing could be properly performed. Unfortunately, the number of cases has only increased since then. The second cluster of cases was identified on Nov. 5.
As of Nov. 9, there are 67 current active positive cases involving students and 6 current active positive cases for employees. The number of cumulative positive cases for students is 98, while for employees it is 8. Students that are identified with a positive coronavirus case are immediately sent to isolation, either in an empty apartment on campus or in an apartment at Mercyhurst North East.
Students are mandated to quarantine for two weeks, receive meals to their doors and are only allowed to be outside during a certain time slot. Then, students are required to be tested again before returning to campus and in-person classes. Students that are labeled as a close contact are also required to quarantine and switch to remote learning for two weeks.
In response to the two clusters of cases, Mercyhurst implemented a period of a campus-wide expanded precautions from Nov. 5 at 9 p.m. until Nov. 11. Some of these precautions include classes going virtual, urging students and faculty to do take-out dining, prohibiting visitation in residential halls or campus apartments and limiting capacity in campus facilities.
Athletics are suspended until further notice, although the recreation center remains open with limited capacity. COVID-19 positive cases are rising all over the United States. Erie County is experiencing another record increase in positive cases and it is not just affecting Mercyhurst students.
According to Erie News Now, the Erie School District has also made the decision to move to remote learning which will affect more than 12,000 students and families. Students of the Erie School District will be online until Nov. 13. The superintendent of Erie schools said that the extension of online learning will be decided on a week-by-week basis, based on how many cases there are in the county.
This is a very difficult time for students and faculty. Finals are approaching and the sudden changes to campus-life and the switch to remote learning can be frustrating for everyone. It is also almost time for the holidays. Therefore staying healthy is important to protecting those around you.
At this time, it is important to think about your families, your classmates and your community for every decision you make. For continued updates checkout the Mercyhurst COVID-19 dashboard at https://www.mercyhurst.edu/covid19/dashboard.