What It’s Like Being on Campus Amid a Coronavirus Shutdown

It was the first day of classes after Spring Break, and my ears caught the familiar iMessage notification sound at 7PM sharp. “Oh my gosh. Holy crap,” my friend texts. After picking up my phone to check the message, I also see that I have a new email. It’s from the Provost and Interim Chancellor. “Due to new information received, all university classes have been cancelled for the remainder of this week, and in-person classes will be suspended until March 30. All university-sponsored events and gatherings will be suspended through the end of the semester,” I read. On the night of March 9th, Vanderbilt University shut down all classes due to the coronavirus.

The school was informed earlier that day about a student who traveled abroad to Barcelona over the break and later tested positive for coronavirus in his hometown. Although this individual has not returned to campus, several other Vanderbilt students who were on the same trip did return. Although no one from this group or on campus has tested positive for COVID-19, the University took precautionary action and suspended all classes to reduce the possibility of spreading the virus in the case that someone was carrying it. Currently, all the students who were on the Barcelona trip are under quarantine. 

I hadn’t read even a few lines into the email and my head was still trying to wrap around the situation before calls and text from my friends and family began flooding in. “Did you hear about class cancellations? Do you need to go home now that you don’t have to physically be in class?” These questions were on every student and parents’ mind. After discussing with my parents, I decided to stay on campus because of the uncertainty of what’s to happen after March 31. I felt safe on campus, but I was going to take precautions. After sanitizing my phone and laptop, I wiped the doorknob to my dorm room. I started leaving my shoes outside the door. Most importantly though, I began washing my hands much more frequently- before eating, before touching my face, after touching my phone or laptop, or after touching any communal door handle or elevator button.

Vanderbilt’s dining facilities had exchanged all reusable dishware for compostable ones. This reduces the chances of spreading germs and also allows students to take their food to go and eat in their dorm rooms if they desire to. Self-service food stations are now monitored and run by staff members. I was glad that Vanderbilt was taking extra safety steps and giving us greater flexibility as to what we can do.

I hear talk among Vandy students that the school is going too far with it’s new measures, but I think the school is not wrong in being cautious. Being on campus while it’s undergoing drastic changes due to a novel outbreak currently out of anyone’s control may seem scary, but if you know your facts it’s really not at all. The mortality rate for people in their 20s is 0.2% - even if we contract the coronavirus, there’s nothing to be afraid of. If you have no previous health complications and have healthy lungs, the disease is not much of a threat to you. If your school also shuts down due to the virus, remain calm and increase your personal precautionary measures. Keep washing your hands. In times like these, the most important thing is to not turn against each other. It’s so easy to point fingers when paranoia is high, but a virus does not discriminate; it can affect everyone at any time and we are all in it together. When a disease needs us to remain more physically distant, we need to be more emotionally close than ever.  

 

There are still no confirmed individuals on campus as of now, and updates are sent out everyday on the current campus situation and protocol. Until then, regardless of your circumstance, stay safe and strong. We as a nation can move past this.