MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (WBOY) – West Virginia University has put a lot of thought and effort into its plan to bring students back in the fall, but many are still unconvinced it is the right decision.
WVU Senior Cherish Heard is one of those students who said she is scared to return to in-person classes for a variety of reasons. Heard said as an asthmatic, she is likely to suffer severe consequences if she is infected, plus there is the matter of her family. She is a Morgantown native who lives at home with her elderly father, she looks after her grandparents, plus her sister is about to have a child in a month.
“There are all these people that I’m affecting in my community,” Heard said. “And if I caught it, it would make it perhaps that the baby could get infected, the mother could be infected, my dad could be infected, all these people who could possibly die from this, including myself.”
That is why Heard sent out a letter to the WVU administration, as well as Gov. Justice’s office, pleading with them to reconsider the decision to bring 28,000 students back to Morgantown along with faculty and staff. As of Tuesday afternoon, Heard said, she had not heard back from WVU, but they send a campus wide email saying they would make as many courses online as possible.
Heard said it’s not just her personal concerns that motivated her to write the letter, but also what she has been hearing from a lot of concerned incoming freshman. She said many of them are coming into college alone, with little or no parental support and they reach out to her for answers.
They are trying to figure this out on their own and they’re just terrified. They kind of asked me, ‘Is there a guarantee that I won’t get COVID if I have my mask on?’ I have to tell them that I’ll talk to the DHHR and the Bureau of Public Health. I called the Bureau of Public Health and they told me even if all the precautions are followed to a ‘T’, there’s still a possibility with a gathering for someone to contract COVID-19, which is very scary, so I had to let them know that. They’re just kind of sad and wondering what to do.Cherish Heard – WVU Senior
WVU classes start in less than a month, but Heard said if the administration reversed course and canceled in-person sessions she would be, “truly elated.” She said that would signify a significant level of care on the part of the administration for not only herself but her community, the elderly and other students.
The senior said she is thankful for all WVU has provided her and that she understands that there are a lot of financial factors at play, but they should not reopen.
“Everybody is at risk and I know that some people may not die, but every individual should be very valued,” Heard said. “And that one individual dying is a big deal, so if they could and I know that they can because they did at the end of the semester in the spring. If they could just put all the classes online, yes only some people will be refunded tuition money, but at the end of the day, to save a life you can’t put a price on that.”
WVU has provided a dedicated page to the university about the plans to return to campus and mitigate the spread of COVID-19. Some precautions that will be taken include mandatory mask-wearing, reduced class sizes to allow for social distancing and not running the PRT, also to encourage social distancing.
In a recent letter to the campus, WVU President Gordon Gee had the following to say:
“There is concern among local and state public health officials, as well as University leadership, that a full return to campus in Morgantown would place both the campus and local communities at a greater risk for an increase in positive cases and transmission rates. If this were to occur, the probability of an all-online semester would escalate. Therefore, West Virginia University will implement a phased return this fall on the Morgantown campus.”