Surviving a Pandemic: COVID at ABAC

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We are living through an era that our children will read about in their textbooks one day. COVID-19 has brought us all to the brink of our limits and questioned how we view social and societal topics. For the students at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, we have tried to make do with the education that has been provided to us via hybrid and online learning styles.

   We as students were made to follow the regulations set by the university system of Georgia and the 2020-2021 academic year was one that none of us will forget. Let’s examine the strides we’ve made since that point.

March 16th: 2020

This was when the pandemic was starting to get serious entirely. We were on an “extended spring break,” and thought things would be fine when we returned. Little did we know, things were about to take a rapid turn.

That’s when the entire student body received this email, it was almost like we watched everyone’s reaction at once, everyone visibly upset about the unknown future ahead of us.

The email stated, “However… the situation has changed.  Now, we must prepare to deliver online for the remainder of the semester.  Doing so will require an extra measure of work from everyone.  We will provide more details on the academic and technical support that ABAC provides to help with the transition to online classes tomorrow. The ABAC campuses are closed to students and the public.  This includes residence halls. ABAC Housing will communicate directly with residential students who have already left campus regarding when and how they will be able to retrieve their belongings from residence halls. The college is working on a plan to provide prorated refunds to students in housing and those with meal plans who have left the residence halls. Accommodations will continue to be made for those students unable to return to their homes.”

A panicked demeanor was set as the next three days would be spent packing up our belongings and returning home to our families two months early. This signaled the official end to the spring, in-person semester. The summer would leave the faculty and students on edge for what was to come for the Fall 2020 semester.

August 2020: ABAC Reopens

  With students antsy to return to life as normal, ABAC attempted to make a painless transition into our new normal. Temperature checks awaited students who were moving onto campus and first-time college students got a diluted, covid-safe version of the experience. While move-ins are full speed ahead, students are learning of the new regulations that await them this year. Housing placed a strict no visitors policy to block the exposure of COVID-19 on campus via students who reside on campus.

This was posted via the ABAC covid newsletter: “At ABAC, we all know that our college is much more than classes and classrooms. Student life, advising, socialization, hands-on learning, network building, athletics, recreational sports, the arts, leadership development, and mentoring are valuable parts of a complete and rich college experience. While the challenges to sustain these are great, ABAC will preserve as many activities as possible so that students can enjoy participating in them in a safe and satisfactory manner. However, reductions in density will be necessary for these activities.”

This transitionary time signaled changes in the dining experience at ABAC as well. Students were no longer to use the self-serve style that was previously used pre-covid. Now, the staff at the Donaldson dining hall were serving the students using styrofoam containers and cups. These one-time-use plastics were effective at cutting down contact with other students and staff, but environmentally unethical.

Along with dining changes, social areas were altered as well. Places like the library and other gathering places pushed masks to try and control any potential outbreaks. These rules carried over to spring 2021 as well.

Fall 2021

While some may feel that coronavirus is fading away, allow me to pull back the curtain and show you what’s really happening right now.

President David Bridges released the following press release concerning the current state of covid on campus: “ABAC students, faculty, and staff, as the COVID situation worsens in our communities and on our campus, I take this opportunity to remind you that there is only so much that I can do.  However, there are things that you can and should do – take precautions, wash your hands, cover your sneeze, maintain distance when you can, and yes wear a mask. I do not have the authority to require masks.  But I will continue to encourage that you wear them.  It is a fact that all masks are not equal in their ability to protect you or others.  But something is better than nothing — especially if you are not vaccinated.  I do not have the authority to require vaccines.  But I will continue to encourage, even beg you to consider getting the vaccine.  Don’t take my word for the value of vaccines, just look at the attached graphic which was taken from a peer-reviewed medical publication, published by the CDC, and annotated by a highly reputable immunologist and MD who is a personal friend of mine.  Whether you are interested in preventing disease, hospitalization, or death, the effect of vaccines is remarkable!  While nothing in life is certain, the facts, as we know them today, are undeniable!  The facts may change.  In fact, they probably will, but we do not have control or insight into how or when that will happen.  The prudent thing to do is to act on what we know. ”

ABAC has begun limited covid precautions and has reigned In influence on masks — making them optional in areas where students gather. Housing has allowed visitors in other student’s rooms. ABAC has a strict policy about self-reporting and quarantining any students who are suspected of being exposed.

The issue lies in the herd mentality that’s forming, because time has passed and there are relaxed versions of covid protocols we may be associating this with a reduction in COVID-19 locally, which is the farthest thing from the truth.

Covid Prevalence

    According to the covid ratio map from Georgia Technical College, if you were to put fifty individuals in a room in Tifton, there is a 96% chance that one person in that room will have COVID-19. This number is staggering considering the face-to-face learning we currently have, and that the amount of students actively wearing masks is low.

Where is the disconnect between students and the reality of this severe issue happening? An estimated 72 students on campus have Covid and the number will likely rise. To prevent a transition back to online learning, we must protect ourselves and others by taking action before entering classrooms or areas of high populations.

When covid hits home

ABAC staff has been hit hard by the recent spike in coronavirus in Tifton as well. The actions of the student body heavily influence the students and staff working hard to provide the quality education offered here at ABAC.

If you have not already, please consider wearing your mask indoors around your peers and professors. Moreover, please, consider following the recommendation of the medical field by getting vaccinated to protect yourself and others.

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