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Students have been getting accustomed to a new masked learning environment. 

With an increase in reported cases of COVID-19, students at IUP are beginning to worry what the rest of the semester may look like.

Beginning on Aug. 16, when students returned to campus, there has been a total of 34 reported cases of COVID-19. Students that have tested positive reside in both on and off-campus housing. Their identities have been kept private while the Pennsylvania Department of Health performed contact tracing.

IUP has kept the student body informed and aware of the current situation; however, students are beginning to wonder if there is more that can be done to stop the spread of the virus and ensure the remainder of the semester is in person.

Some students have suggested ways IUP can better enforce social distancing.

“They need to space out seating in the dining hall and extend its hours so there are less unmasked individuals in a tight, enclosed space,” Jonathan Eckert (senior, history) said.

With the newly implemented Common Hour, most students are heading to the dining hall to get lunch in the same hour. This presents the problem of many unmasked individuals in one building, as Eckert pointed out.

Students agree that mask policies are straightforward, but protocol for exposure in their classes are not.

“I think the guidelines are quite unclear. I’m honestly not 100 percent sure what I am supposed to do if I am exposed to the virus. The only thing super clear about guidelines is mask wearing,” Megan Gent (freshman, social studies education) said.

Some students are also concerned for their in-person classes that do not offer Zoom. Should a student be exposed to or contract the virus, they are to self-isolate for at least 10 days. Getting behind in class and catching up for 10 days’ worth of content is not something most students want to undertake; however, professors are willing to work with and help students should this occur.

While there is a mask mandate inside buildings, regardless of vaccination status, some continue to disregard this. Many students have reported being in close proximity to people without masks.

“Although a lot of people are great with wearing their masks, tons of people don’t wear them correctly, or at all,” Leanne Goodell (freshman, English education) said. “I’m constantly riding the elevator with like three unmasked people. Some teachers need to put their foot down on having kids wear their mask above their nose.”

While Eckert, Gent and Goodell said they were not surprised by the rise in reported cases, they agree that IUP is doing the best it can to try to stop the spread.

There is information available on IUP’s website regarding COVID-19 guidelines and protocols. On-campus testing is available to students for free as well as the vaccines for the virus.

IUP will continue to keep students updated on the number of positive cases and best ways to ensure all students are staying safe, as well as trying to secure the continuation of in-person learning and the on-campus experience.

While some are sharing many concerns about increasing cases, missing class and possibly going online, it is imperative to recognize that every student has a role in this. Each person’s actions and choices affect how the semester will go for every other individual.

IUP is a community; working together and thinking of others is how it will remain one. Mask up.

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