Masks

Some students didn't think returning to JMU after Thanksgiving Break was worth it.

After Thanksgiving Break, JMU made the decision to have the rest of the semester fully online. Some students remained at home, whereas others decided to come back to campus for the remaining three weeks of the semester. 

With only three weeks remaining of the semester after Thanksgiving, some students didn’t think the risk of traveling to come back for such a short period of time was going to be worth it. 

“Personally, I just didn’t think it was worth coming back to campus,” Summer Descotea, a freshman economics major, said.  “I just didn’t want to risk the possibility of getting sick with all of the traveling I have to do since I’m out of state.” 

According to the JMU COVID-19 Dashboard, the cases from the first two weeks have remained low, with five to 10 positive cases being reported every day. But with the country spiking in cases again, it's possible that another spike could occur here at JMU. 

Freshman media arts and design major Kelli Kline said she feels safer at JMU than at home because she said she can better avoid becoming infected at school.

“With less people on campus, I think I am less likely to get [COVID-19] here versus at home,” Kline said. 

Along with some students returning to campus, sophomore Sophia Park is a resident advisor. She said she’s noticed campus life looks different than it did a few weeks ago

“With less students on campus, things have definitely slowed down a lot,” Park said. “I really haven’t had many issues with violations besides a noise complaint here and there, and those were only with music being played too loud,” Park said. 

Even though the possibility for another COVID-19 spike lingers, JMU has taken precautions to prevent the spread of the virus on campus. From limiting the number of students in dining facilities to enforced mask wearing there were only 39 cases reported. 

Mary-Hope Vass, deputy spokesperson and assistant director of media relations, said, “JMU’s medical staff within the university health center monitors positive case counts in isolation/quarantine bed availability each day. These individuals, in partnership with senior leadership, talk on a daily basis and maintain up to date plans for addressing any changes in the virus within our community.” 

At the beginning of every week, JMU sends out a “JMU Health Update” via email to all students. 

“Since Dec. 11, the university observed 5 new positive student cases of COVID-19 at the Health Center, 1 self-reported student case, 1 employee who tested positive at the UHC and 3 employees who self-reported testing positive, putting the number of active cases at 24,” the email said Dec. 14. 

The spread of COVID-19 continues to improve on campus with there being a minimal amount of cases, but students are still required to follow the guidelines that are in place. JMU said in the Dec. 14 health update email, “While our situation continues to improve, individuals must continue to follow public health guidance by wearing masks, maintaining physical distance and washing hands frequently.”  

The low number of cases can be directly correlated with the low number of students that’ve returned to campus. “Less than half of the on-campus population returned after Thanksgiving Break,” Vass said. 

JMU has also continued all of its previous COVID-19 guidelines that were implemented prior to Thanksgiving Break, according to JMU’s Stop the Spread page. This includes completing the LiveSafe questions every day, wearing masks on campus, limiting the number of students in dining halls and UREC, and not allowing students into dorms that they don’t live in.

With the COVID-19 cases remaining low after these two weeks back, many students are hoping that they can get through finals without any COVID-19 related issues. 

“I just really hope everyone does what they’re supposed to so we can get through finals and get to go on winter break with no issue,” Kline said. 

Contact Mackenzie Munn at munnmc@dukes.jmu.edu. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.