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University President Joyce McConnell sent an email last night stating that Colorado State University will extend spring break until March 24 and move classes online until April 10. As COVID-19 has spread to Larimer County, it’s pertinent and appropriate that universities do the responsible thing for the community at large.
Evidently, students aren’t confined to CSU’s campus. Even if students themselves are not the demographic with the highest risk of contracting the disease, there are other people who are. Moving classes online or even canceling classes is the responsible move for the University to make.
Putting students’ health first and prioritizing a successful learning environment should be at the forefront of the University’s decision making, even if it’s a little unorthodox. It feels that way because we haven’t had to do anything like this in recent history.
While this move to online classes is responsible, it’s an alarming measure for some to wrap their heads around. Universities are global in nature, and they attract people from all over the world, which makes them unlike other gatherings of large groups of people.
It’s especially prompt considering spring break is a time for travel. While universities can’t control whether or not that happens, they can at least stop the potential of COVID-19 spreading once students come back. However, this doesn’t mean that students need to panic and start stockpiling toilet paper and hand sanitizer.
We don’t need to wait for someone in the immediate University community to contract the disease. Prevention will always be better than letting it get ahead of us and having to take a reactionary path.
The potential to overwhelm our health care system would be much worse. According to Harvard Medical School, the risk of very serious illness or death from contracting COVID-19 is likely less than that of the flu, SARS or MERS.
In fact, the World Health Organization estimated the COVID-19 mortality rate to be 3.4% as of March 3. The flu affects millions of people every year, but contracting the disease doesn’t mean it’s going to kill you. Maybe the flu wouldn’t be as prevalent if we had more preventative measures in place.
My colleague Joslyn Orji claims that moving classes online will contribute to a growing apathy among students and that students may begin to neglect their coursework. Regardless of the format in which classes are being delivered, it’s a student’s responsibility to adapt to the circumstances, and if it’s a situation they might need help maintaining, students should let their professors know.
Similarly, our health care system is not as advanced as most people think. We do have an abundance of resources to draw from, but we’re not great at allocating them, which is essential during an outbreak.
So, what this means is that we’re starting to understand how vulnerable we are as a community when people can’t afford to take off work when they’re sick and when people can’t go to the doctor because it’s too expensive. Taking preventative measures should not be a privilege, and the University is acting responsibly.
Thankfully, we have the technology to continue on and not cancel classes altogether, which would leave a slew of other administrative and technical components to address.
We are only as healthy as the most vulnerable of our population. Hopefully by the end of this, we as students can expand our discussion of health and health care to include more preventative measures, like universal health care and paid sick leave.
Madison Thompson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @heyymadison.