Following JMU’s official announcement to move to “primarily online learning” by Sept. 7, Caitlyn Read, JMU’s spokesperson and director of communications, was interviewed by The Breeze.
Read described the lack of quarantine and isolation space and a “sharp uptick” in cases over the weekend, primarily self-reported, as the breaking point that led to the decision within the administration to modify class instruction.
“We became concerned about that capacity,” Read said. “Those two factors combined led us to make the announcement today to transition to online learning for at least the next four weeks.
Read said the decision was made this morning after senior leadership met with university medical experts, as they've done since the start of the semester, to review the case data and make decisions about the university’s plans moving forward.
Regarding the university’s decision to send freshmen home by Sept. 7, Read said students in quarantine should finish their prescribed time in isolation prior to returning home to minimize the likelihood of bringing the virus to their home community.
When The Breeze asked Read what caused the several public health discrepancies that could’ve led the case count to new heights, Read said that there are “a number of factors” that lead to JMU’s case count, but she said she knows that most cases generated from students socializing in close proximity to each other and “sometimes without masks.”
Since dining halls and libraries will still be open, students will still have to adhere to health guidelines. While students have reported large gatherings on campus via social media, Read said that these safety regulations should be reported to administration, as well.
“Social media is useful in some contexts,” Read said. “But if you're seeing something, say something to your advisor, contact the Dean of Student Affairs. If your safety feels threatened, contact public safety, just make sure the administration is seeing that stuff.”
Read said JMU will use its newfound time to plan how it’ll keep students safe in the event they return to campus later in the year. It’ll also look into acquiring more space for isolation beds.
Read also said the university is unable to comment on any financial kickback from the decision at this time.
“We have planned tirelessly for the last six months,” Read said. “But that's what it was — it was planning.”
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