The Pandemic is Worse than Before. Millikin Should Move to Online Learning for the Fall.

July 22, 2020

There have been more than 14,608,000 infections and over 605,000 deaths worldwide. The United States totals at least 3,807,000 cases and at least 137,000 deaths. These numbers have been repeatedly reported as dramatic undercounts as testing is still limited months into the global pandemic.

“We are still knee-deep in the first wave of this,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and leading epidemiologist in the United States, said on July 6, 2020.

Millikin announced it will hold in-person classes with the current proposed plan: they moved fall break to Thanksgiving with the hope students will visit home less-often and they said there will be online classes after fall break so students stay home instead of possibly bringing the virus back to Decatur.

If the virus comes to Millikin, it will be then when about 2,000 students move into residences as their parents and families help them move. Even if the coronavirus does not cause an outbreak in the first few weeks due to move-in, shared living spaces, shared bathrooms, shared study spaces, shared eating spaces, and shared social spaces make social distancing near-impossible. Millikin and other colleges across the country will become COVID-19 hotbeds for not only college campuses but the surrounding communities, too. 

Therefore, Millikin must continue with online studies until the virus abates or a successful vaccine is created.

Millikin should wait until a vaccine is created because the impact of COVID-19 on the human body is unique in its destruction. 

Doctors consistently express that the virus attacks every organ and can cause severe blood vessel damage. Fever, fatigue, pain, and difficulty breathing can last for weeks if not months, and the possibility of reinfection is still unknown. 

Yes, about 40 to 45 percent of cases are asymptomatic (which are still possibly transmissible cases, though are much less likely to spread the virus) and a lot are mild cases. But for people–even young adults–who do have severe symptoms (about 20%), Covid-19 can cause long term damage to nearly all aspects of health even after “recovering” from the virus. 

The lungs after infection can experience serious scarring and reduced respiratory capacity, leading to difficulty breathing even when performing the simplest of tasks. 

Asymptomatic cases may even suffer from mild lung scarring. For the brain, seizures, Guillain-Barre syndrome, possible paralysis of extremities, and possible dementia-like symptoms can occur

A person can develop brain fog where they have difficulty with concentration and short-term memory. About 5 percent of patients that required hospitalization in Wuhan, China experienced strokes. In France, between 23 and 30 percent of people with severe COVID-19 are also having pulmonary embolisms where circulation to the lungs is cut off due to blood clots. 

Cardiomyopathy (where the heart has difficulty delivering blood to the body), heart disease, and arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) are possible and deadly. Severe kidney damage caused by infection can lead to kidney failure and long-term dialysis. 

The UK National Health Service reported based on best practice that of patients who require hospitalization, 45 percent will need ongoing care, 4 percent will require residential (inpatient) rehabilitation, and 1 percent will permanently require acute care. 

Patients also have anxiety, depression, and/or post-traumatic stress from experiencing the suffering that comes with Covid-19. One of the most frightening things about Covid-19 is that it is considered that more research needs to be completed to get the full spectrum of the capabilities of this virus. Meaning, what is listed above is currently a small part of what is known about the disease.

Cases are rising across the U.S. and the states that have successfully declined the number of cases are now experiencing a rise.

Illinois, which had a decline of new cases a day to about 600 about a week before Phase 4, is now back over 1,100 new cases a day. States like Florida, California and Texas are each experiencing record new cases of more than 8,000 daily. Just yesterday, the number of reported deaths in the U.S. reached over 1,000 for the first time since June 9.

The pandemic has gotten dramatically worse since March when schools first closed. Yet, the Millikin administration has deemed it possible to safely open the school for in-person learning and released late yesterday a semi-detailed plan for prevention of a Covid-19 outbreak and when an outbreak occurs on campus. 

This plan was released only mere weeks before the first students move back into the Woods and residence halls and does not go into considerable detail what would happen if an outbreak were to happen on campus nor if quarantine spaces in Walker Hall become crowded. It does not seek to ask students who are sick with a negative Covid-19 test to still quarantine until symptoms have abated for 72 hours or get a second Covid-19 test. 

The plan does not describe procedurally what will happen if a student tests positive for Covid-19. The virus can last on surfaces for as long as half a day, so if a person does contract Covid-19 and is experiencing symptoms, the possibility someone else has been exposed is an absolute guarantee. 

Let’s also keep in mind transmission is possible even 1-2 days before the onset of transmission. In a letter to WHO, an international coalition of more than 200 experts wrote that the coronavirus can be suspended in aerosols in the air for hours in poorly ventilated indoor places. Many, if not most, of the buildings on campus are old and lack quality air circulation. 

Moreover, the plan is lacking when it comes to dining services and the cafe. Though they are halving maximum capacity, they did not express a change in dining hours to allow students and faculty the ability to avoid the cafe during its most popular dining hours.

The continued idea that students can return to in-person learning in a worsening pandemic is inconceivable, and this distant and almost nonexistent grip of the reality of the pandemic that Millikin has about safely having in-person classes endangers our health, the health of the faculty that support us, and the community that we live in.

Understandably, if Millikin decides to move to online learning for the entire semester, a lot of negative consequences for students including dealing with life at home as well as how much we will be paying for a “full college experience.” 

I am not blind to that reality. Students who need housing, food, Wi-Fi/technology, or extra instruction should still be able to stay on campus to get what they require to both succeed and excel. 

However, it is still dangerous to have everyone back on campus as social distancing will be near impossible. Millikin must move to online learning for the semester or the entire year if a successful vaccine is not developed by then. The safety and the lives of students, professors, faculty, and the Decatur community depend on it.

Young people, like our friends, can still get severe cases and will deal with the long-term effects of Covid-19. Keep in mind, 20 percent of just the student population at Millikin is about 400 people. Lastly, wear a mask and have it cover your nose (see the CDC’s website).

And just a little tag for those people who would choose to ignore the most severe symptoms or say “only old or a small number of people get severe cases:” You disregard the humanity of these people, along with their families and the lives they lead, and reduce them to mere statistics.

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