COVID-19’s impact on Cedar Crest College
The World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, MSc, characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic on the afternoon of March 11, 2020. Since then, much has changed.
“In the past two weeks, the number of cases of COVID-19 outside China has increased 13-fold,” Ghebreyesus said. "The number of affected countries has tripled. There are now more than 118,000 cases in 114 countries, and 4,291 people have lost their lives. Thousands more are fighting for their lives in hospitals. In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterized as a pandemic.”
While this information may cause panic through the use of one word, pandemic, the WHO and Ghebreyesus stated that we can still change the course of the pandemic. We can change the course of the pandemic through detecting, testing, treating, isolating, tracing, and mobilizing their people in response to the virus. Ghebreyesus summarized these responses in four key areas.
“First, prepare and be ready,” he said. “Second, detect, protect and treat. Third, reduce transmission. Fourth, innovate and learn.”
Cedar Crest College has been doing its own work to change the course of the pandemic, while keeping in mind the students, faculty, staff, and Cedar Crest College community. With the pandemic in mind, the school has still been trying to run as it normally would. Many of campus events have been canceled for the campus community’s safety, but staff has been in constant contact to inform everyone with updates.
Health Services’ most recent email sent out on March 16, informed the campus community that Cedar Crest College has no confirmed or suspected cases of COVID-19. Health Services also provides information on how to protect yourself from COVID-19, how to proceed if you are sick with any symptoms of COVID-19, and Lehigh Valley Health Network testing sites for COVID-19.
On March 23, 2020 President Meade sent out an email stating, “The Incident Management Team meets daily to discuss both current and emerging issues surrounding the COVID-19 crisis and is actively working to address the most pressing needs of our community. I will update you every Monday on our progress. As of today, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at the College. However, in light of Governor Wolf’s most recent order regarding non-life-sustaining business and the continued recommendations from the CDC to limit social contact in the fight against COVID-19, the College has made the decision to continue remote instruction through the end of the semester. We will continue to support the students who have been approved to remain on campus due to extenuating circumstances. We are also working closely with faculty to address issues surrounding successful course completion, including grading policies. I have also made the difficult decision to postpone our commencement ceremony until we receive guidance that it is safe to hold gatherings of this size. I know how important the commencement ceremony is to our graduates and their loved ones, and indeed to the whole community. We will come together to celebrate the Class of 2020 along with the resilience of our community at a suitable moment in the future. In the meantime, please be assured that we remain committed to successful degree completion for our graduates and academic continuity for all of our students.”
“All of my classes were moved online,” Alissa Ardila Blanco, a senior, said. “Which tremendously disrupted how my classes work. I had a class that my professor was forced to end since we have to be in campus to do our work. For another class, my professor had to find alternative material because the movies he intended to use can’t be watched on canvas. I feel that CCC is doing what it can. They are doing their best and trying to do what they can to keep everyone safe.”
Students enrolled in clinical, field experiences, internships, or student learning would be allowed to continue their assignments, but must follow the guidance of the organization they work with. If the student could not continue their work, the college will work with them to create alternative means to fulfill their requirements.
“I cannot go to my internship anymore,” Samantha Anderson, a senior, said. “I need a certain number of hours to graduate. Hopefully, I can do enough virtual hours of my internship, and focus hard enough on my schoolwork to finish the semester.”
On March 23, 2020, the Assistant Director of Residential Education and Leadership, Jess Cross, sent out an email stating, “The Governor of Pennsylvania has ordered all non-life sustaining businesses to shut down as of 12:01am on March 21, 2020. The closure order prohibits access to all campus buildings. Our residence halls are secured to keep your belongings safe, and the College’s Campus Police remain onsite and are performing their regular patrol. We know not having your belongings may be frustrating and the College will notify you as soon as possible on when we can open the residence halls for students to come pick up their belongings. Students who left medication or other health related necessities will need to contact Campus Police at 610-437-4471 to schedule a time to be escorted to their rooms. Only these items may be removed at this time.”
For students this meant that the residence halls are closed. The college reinforced that all students who are able should move out of their residence hall within the next 48 hours.
“I am temporarily living with my godmother in New Jersey, since I am not allowed on campus,” Anderson said. “I live in Texas, but I cannot go back home. I am living with a relative I have not seen in over a decade because she was the only person who was willing to take me in. I am talking to friends and Family that I have not spoken to in a while, and I feel like everything is just changing too fast. I do not work anymore so I do not have money, but who need money when there is no food to buy. My godmother and I do not have a lot food here since the stores around her area are empty so we are making do for what we have.”
For faculty, President Meade stated, “Given the governor’s order to close non-essential businesses, all student research, clinical and field experiences, and internships (on or off campus) have been suspended. Only those designated by the College as Essential Personnel may be present on the Allentown campus during its closure. One of my highest priorities is making sure all students finish the semester successfully and that students can graduate in May.”
For staff, President Meade stated, “The campus is closed, but it is essential that critical business operations continue. Administrative office directors have been asked to submit business plans to ensure the continuity of the College’s work. Please be in communication with your supervisor about your responsibilities during the campus closure. An email from Human Resources will be sent shortly with additional details.”
On March 24, 2020, Provost Robert Wilson sent an email to students, stating, “Our lives have been changed in dramatic ways by the coronavirus pandemic. In recognition of the adversity and uniqueness of these circumstance, Cedar Crest will implement a “Credit” or “No Credit” grading policy for the spring 2020 semester. Faculty will evaluate your academic performance and issue grades for the semester according to our normal letter scale (A-F). After final course grades are posted, you will have 7 days to decide if you wish to convert to a “Credit” (A-D grades) or a “No Credit” (F grades) designation. After your initial decision, you will have a period to consult with your academic advisor and may make changes until 5/26/20. “Credit” designations will satisfy academic requirements and provide for progression in your studies. “No Credit” designations will not satisfy academic requirements. You may choose to convert to the Credit/No Credit system for any individual course or for all that you are taking. Neither “Credit” nor “No Credit” designations will be calculated into GPA.”
On March 24, 2020, Dean of Students Kyle Dailey, sent the campus community an email that stated, “During this time of unprecedented change and adaptation we know that a friendly face can make all the difference in providing a bit of normalcy. To that end, I want to assure you that Student Affairs will continue to provide resources and support to our community during the time the campus has moved to online learning. All of our services will be available to students, faculty, and staff during regular working hours (Monday-Friday 8:30am-4:30pm). While some services may be amended for remote accessibility, we are committed to offering the same level of service that you are used to.”
Athletics, recently shared the information that all of the falcon’s teams would be ending their spring seasons, due to the Colonial States Athletic Conference suspending all athletic activity for the remainder of the 2020 spring season.
Access to more information on how Cedar Crest College is dealing with COVID-19 can be reached through the website: https://www.cedarcrest.edu/healthservices/covid.shtm.