The first two weeks that students were back on campus showed promising results in terms of the number of on-campus COVID-19 cases. The weeks of Aug. 16 and Aug. 23 had mere .1% and .3% positivity rates, respectfully. Then week three came and, you guessed it, positive cases skyrocketed faster than the university could cash its tuition checks.
With a 15.5% positivity rate reported on Aug. 31, students began panicking. Pictures of the university’s COVID-19 dashboard flooded social media. Pie charts with wider orange wedges than the weeks before were accompanied by tweets with memes and captions made solely of emojis.
Then it got worse. As of Sept. 4, Virginia Tech is now reporting 416 total positive COVID-19 test results. The positivity rate for tests conducted between Aug. 30 and Sept. 4 was an astounding 19.8%. It’s important to note that these statistics only include testing conducted by Schiffert Health Center.
Blacksburg Mayor Leslie Hager-Smith tweeted on Sept. 1 that Virginia Tech’s positive cases “are expected to rise, then plateau later in September.” While that may be the case, it doesn’t answer one critical question:
What number of cases are we OK with?
Unlike other schools, Virginia Tech’s COVID-19 dashboard does not include data from other testing sites in the community, meaning we do not know how many students living off-campus (which the vast majority of Hokies do) have tested positive for the virus.
And even without those cases, we still have a rapidly climbing positivity rate and no answers about what comes next. This fact, frankly, is terrifying.
It’s terrifying for students who need time to look for other places to live if the dorms shut down. If there’s not adequate time for students to explore other options, they may have to resort to going home and potentially exposing their families. They may be forced back into abusive or unstable households under financial and emotional pressure. They may not have the technical capabilities to continue their coursework online. Their lives are already stressful enough –– they deserve to know how the university plans to care for them if a shutdown is required.
Students: We deserve answers, but we also need to recognize our mistakes and realize that we’re part of the problem. It's blatantly obvious that not all 30,000 of us have been or are perfect angels. Throwing all of the guilt and blame at the university on Twitter (to get more retweets) does not help. It harms. If we have any chance at staying open, we need to shape up, realize our mistakes, stop being stupid and re-approach the situation as a student body. Though we may demand that the university make adjustments, they will be pointless if students continue to violate CDC guidelines.
Virginia Tech administration: Whether students should have been brought back to campus at all is debatable. However, we know it’s not a decision that was taken lightly or was made without planning. Regardless, things aren’t looking good, and we need to know what the plan(s) are moving forward. We need to prepare. We need advance warning.
If we’re beyond the point of no return and we need to close, tell us. If we actually have time to turn this around, prove to us that we’re staying open to take a second chance at it –– not because you’re waiting for tuition checks to cash.
The Collegiate Times Editorial Board is composed of the editor in chief, managing editors and opinions editors.