JMU’s upcoming Family Weekend leaves many excited, though there are still concerns. Last year, COVID-19 canceled many in-person events, and even now the threat of the virus remains.
Sophomore psychology major Liam Payne said he thinks the weekend’s events will go well, though he acknowledges the risks, mentioning the tickets for the football game selling out quickly.
“It’ll be fine, I don’t think it’ll spike [COVID-19], but I think it’s a little risky for JMU to have such a big event,” Payne said. “If it sold out that quickly, a lot of people are coming and that’s pretty risky.”
Payne said he thinks JMU’s current COVID-19 measures are working well, citing the high vaccination numbers — 91.9% of students and 88% of employees are vaccinated, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.
“I definitely think there are some health concerns because a lot of people are coming from a lot of places,” Payne said.
He suggested JMU should implement family testing or vaccine verifications to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Ginny Cramer, JMU assistant director of media relations, said in an email to The Breeze that JMU is confident Family Weekend will be a success.
“We’re excited for JMU families to gather again in person as a community,” Cramer said in the email. “As always, we’re dedicated to making Family Weekend safe and fun.”
Cramer said in the email that JMU’s letting students and families choose which events best fit their interests and comfort level this year.
Cramer said students and families will be asked to follow JMU’s current COVID-19 measures, including staying home if they feel sick, wearing masks while indoors and around people and following location-specific requirements — for instance, specific protocols for places like the Atlantic Union Bank Center, the Forbes Center for the Performing Arts, the University Recreation Center (UREC) and Bridgeforth Stadium.
“The JMU community has come together for a successful start to the new academic year,” Cramer said in the email. “We fully expect that same spirit of community, respect for others and personal responsibility to make this Family Weekend one to remember.”
Landen Chanthaphanij, a freshman business management major, said because of vaccines, crowd size has been lessening, so there won’t be as large of a group of people as in previous years. However he said he thinks there will still be a large number of people in attendance.
“I’m not sure how well JMU’s current measures will hold up,” Chanthaphanij said. “There will probably be an increase in the spreading of COVID.”
Chanthaphanij said he’s not sure what further measures JMU could implement to combat the spread, saying that even with mask mandates, many people still might not wear masks properly.
Hanna Hogge, a junior Spanish major, said her parents aren’t attending Family Weekend due to hotel logistics. She said Family Weekend is going to be “awesome” and can’t imagine it being anything less. Hogge said she doesn’t see many safety concerns due to her and her friends being vaccinated and always trying to maintain social distancing.
“I assume some parents are concerned, but if they’re coming, they know what they’re doing,” Hogge said. “I think JMU’s safety measures are good enough because I haven’t heard many complaints so far.”
Hogge thinks a spike in cases is possible, or even inevitable, with the influx of new people coming to campus.
“You’re bringing a bunch of people from a bunch of different places together,” Hogge said. “It’s inevitable, right?”
Michelle Yancy, a JMU parent and elementary school teacher, said she doesn’t have any safety concerns at all regarding Family Weekend. She said JMU has “done a really great job” of keeping parents informed of what the COVID-19 situation has been like on campus.
Specifically, Yancy pointed to the university’s high vaccination rates among students and employees — as listed on JMU’s COVID-19 dashboard — as proof of wellbeing in the JMU community.
Yancy said she’s aware that students must wear masks indoors and parents probably will too. She said she’s not worried, though, because her daughter made a full recovery after getting COVID-19 earlier in the semester.
“I know what students have lost in the last year and a half, so I feel like they’re doing what needs to be done to allow students to learn as normally as possible and as safely as possible,” Yancy said. “I think it’s a win-win.”
Yancy said she believes other parents share her sentiment about the upcoming event’s safety, saying that if JMU hasn’t gone to fully online classes yet, the university “must be doing something right.”
This time next year, Yancy said, she hopes to be free of masks and be somewhat back to normal.
“If I’m being honest, other than the masks I’m not really sure we’re doing too much differently,” Yancy said. “If that’s what it takes to give people a sense of safety and still do what we need to do, then I’m all for it. I absolutely 100% hope that by next year we are throwing these masks away and celebrating.”
All JMU students and families can hope for is a fun, safe and enjoyable Family Weekend for everyone participating.
Contact Kingston Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more coverage of JMU and Harrisonburg news, follow the news desk on Twitter @BreezeNewsJMU.