Since the start of classes at Pittsburg State University, the number of COVID-19 cases has risen rapidly. According to an email sent out by the University Marketing and Communication department, since Aug. 17, 50 percent of the new cases of COVID-19 in Crawford county are in the 18 to 25 age range and can be directly linked to bars and off-campus parties.
Since the directive by Dr. Tim Stebbins, Public Health Officer for Crawford County, last week for students to stop all parties, gatherings, and going to bars, Pitt State has taken an additional measure to combat the rapid spread of COVID-19.
“The goal is to keep the University open, which we know is what most students want,” an email from the University Marketing and Communication department wrote. “We are in a position to achieve this goal if you (the students) take immediate action to make the right choices for public health.”
Together with the Crawford County Health Department, Pitt State has suspended all in-person campus activities as well as PSU related extracurricular gatherings. Beginning last Friday, Aug. 28, all athletic activities, all in-person activities hosted by student organizations and intermural and club sports are suspended. Additionally, the Student Recreation Center and the Weede pool will reduce capacity to 30 percent, approximately 90 students, and the Gibson Dining Hall will soon take out carry-out orders by phone or email. Activities can, however, be moved to a virtual format when possible.
“We were looking for opportunities to stay focused on academics and reduce opportunities perhaps for close contacts outside of those settings to develop, and hope that by focusing on the next two weeks we can reduce the spread,” said Steve Erwin, vice president of student life.
The decision to suspend campus activities was made by the president’s council in consultation with county health officials who will continue to meet to discuss the ongoing concerns regarding COVID-19.
“We (the president’s council) meet multiple times a week right now… our decision-making group used to meet just once a week… and now we’re meeting more frequently depending on the demand,” Erwin said.
As of right now, the suspension of events will extend to potentially Sept. 14, but the president’s council will monitor the situation to determine when to allow activities to resume.
“So, we’ll obviously be looking at flattening or decline in terms of deciding whether or not to extend beyond that date or whether we feel comfortable removing those restrictions,” Erwin said. “Looking at the numbers and the metrics and if it looks like we’re making progress in the right direction (and) as people respond and those things change and some of the steps we’re taking have effect, we should see those (numbers) start to decline.”
Destiny Ray, sophomore in art, says that although she believes the new measures are needed, it will take away from the college experience.
“It’s kind of harder since you (want to) go out and do things and you don’t really have a lot of things going on..,” Ray said. “It makes it harder to go out and get involved in clubs, getting involved in sports with everything getting shut down.”
Ray said that seeing how the COVID-19 situation will change over the next two weeks will show whether or not the university should have opened again.
“If it doesn’t get better, it’ll make me wonder if we should have come back so early to start another semester or should we keep being online to have that safety precaution,” Ray said.
Despite the cancellation of in-person activities, many groups will continue to have events or meetings but offer them online.
According to Cale Chapman, Gorilla Activities Board (GAB) president and sophomore in communication, when GAB heard about the decision, they were ready to “work around it.”
“We have got a lot of hardworking members that are making sure we can still get events to the student body despite not being able to be in-person anymore,” Chapman said. “GAB never scheduled an event for this semester that was totally in-person and that has helped a lot. All of our events were either totally virtual or hybridized.”
GAB will continue to host virtual events, and students can follow their social media pages (@pittstategab) to find information about upcoming events.
Erwin hopes that the new measure will help “turn things in the right direction.”
“I think students have been really responsive, (and) student organizations have been very responsive throughout this,” Erwin said.