Appalachian State University began the fall 2020 semester on Aug. 17. The reopening included face-to-face classes, full dorms and only sporadic, voluntary testing. This was against the advice of the faculty who suggested a reduced campus density and comprehensive testing through a “brainstorming group,” senate resolutions, letters to the editor and signed petitions. Now we all must suffer the consequences.
Our leadership appears committed to assigning blame to individual behaviors, while failing to acknowledge or alter the institutional landscape that ultimately is responsible for the spike in infections and the one tragic death thus far.
Below is a plot of the cumulative cases reported on the AppState “dashboard” (https://www.appstate.edu/go/coronavirus/reporting/) from June 4 through Oct. 2, black line. The red line is an exponential fit to these data, extrapolated and forwarded until Nov. 24, the last day of classes this semester.
If circumstances do not change, this is the curve we are on. It shows reported cases doubling every 22 days, and 3,678 cumulative cases by Nov. 24. Moreover, 1,000-plus new reported cases will be active, and infectious, when students return home to spend Thanksgiving with their families.
Nothing is set in stone and behaviors can change. But something had better change quickly, as our recent past suggests a devastating end to this semester.
Michael Hambourger, associate professor,
ASU Chemistry and Fermentation Sciences