It’s a new semester at Florida Tech, and many students are excited to be on campus after a year of remote learning. However, some students are still concerned about COVID-19.
One such student is Brandon Wood, who is pursuing his master’s degree in software engineering. Wood has some concerns about opening in-person classes while COVID-19 is still so prevalent.
“I think the classrooms are too small and crowded to practice any form of social distancing. Only the seminar course I am attending has few enough people for social distancing in the space provided,” Wood said.
Krishna Patel, the COVID-19 case manager at Florida Tech, explains why social distancing isn’t being enforced in the classrooms: “Because we are trying to return to a normal learning pattern and accommodate all the students on campus, we decided to enforce the indoor mask policy instead.”
COVID-19 has seen a resurgence in the latest weeks, especially in Florida where the New York Times reports an average of 21,304 new cases per day.
Brevard County has reported high numbers, averaging 526 new cases a day for the week of Sept. 16. This makes the county one of the most at-risk in the U.S., according to COVID Act Now. Although, it is worth noting, these numbers are on the decline.
“We are ready to make decisions, if an emergency happens, to close down if we need to,” says Patel, regarding the concern of a COVID-19 surge.
With the high number of cases, students like Wood question whether the school is doing enough to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Wood suggested making remote learning more accessible. “Florida Tech has the infrastructure to support both in-person and online attendance but is requiring in-person attendance unless you apply for and meet their criteria. I think that both options should be allowed by default.”
These numbers follow the surge of the delta variant of COVID-19 and it is now the predominant strain of COVID-19 in the U.S. according to the Center for Disease Control Prevention.
According to the CDC, the delta variant is twice as contagious as previous variants of COVID-19. Those most at risk, however, are those who are unvaccinated or partially vaccinated.
Although those who are vaccinated can still transfer the delta variant, the chance of spreading it is much lower. These are known as “breakthrough cases.”
“When the CDC talks about breakthrough cases, those breakthrough cases are if the vaccine maybe just wasn't strong enough to fight it at the time of infection, it also depends on how you were exposed,” Patel said.
New reported infections of the delta variant have been in younger age groups as well, with ages 12-49 seeing a spike in cases according to the CDC.
As of Sept. 24, Florida Tech has reported 10 new COVID-19 cases among students, all of whom are now quarantining.
It is important that students feel they are getting a safe learning experience. The concerns of students like Wood should be taken into consideration as the school continues the new semester. Until then, all students should follow standard COVID-19 safety protocol.