By Hannah Gandal
The University of Maryland began their fall semester on August 31st as scheduled with a new reopening plan due to COVID-19. Colleges and universities across the country have had to work meticulously in order to create safe and effective learning environments during the pandemic. The University of Maryland required an online training program and pledge to be completed by all students and staff prior to their return onto campus (umd.edu). All students and faculty were required to get tested for COVID-19 before their arrival as well. The school is providing testing that is readily available with quick results each week. Within the first few weeks of school, the university administered all of their available tests. Nayab Mahmood, a junior at UMD, explained that “The school ran out of testing kits for a period of time, so no one was getting tested on campus for around a week or two”. As for classes, things have changed as well. “Most of my classes have been asynchronous, which means that my lectures are recorded so that I can watch them anytime I want”, said Mahmood. All classes at the university are online as of now, but UMD has claimed that they intend to start more in-person classes as soon as possible.
With college comes partying, which is one of the easiest ways to spread the COVID-19 virus. Nick Gandal, a junior at UMD, explained that the school set a rule where “if you get caught having a social gathering with 10 or more people, a $5,000 fine could be given to whoever lives in the house that had the gathering”. This rule has been very controversial among the student community, but the school has kept it in place. The living situations of students on campus have been affected as well. All freshman dorms are singles, as opposed to the normal doubles or triples, which means there is only one student in each dorm room. Along with the change to the typical dorms, the reopening plan includes new on-campus isolation housing. If a student comes in contact with a person who tested positive for COVID-19, they must quarantine for 14 days. One option students have is to quarantine in provided housing on campus. This has been of great use at the university, as “Quarantine housing is mostly occupied, which is definitely concerning since it has only been a few weeks since students have returned to campus” said Mahmood. This implies that there are already many students who have come in contact with people who have the virus, in just 3 weeks of being on campus.
UMD administered 4,616 covid tests in the week of September 13th to the 19th. 61 of these tests came back positive in this one week, according to the University of Maryland COVID-19 Dashboard. A few weeks after the reopening of the school, “seven out of the ten students who live in my house contracted COVID-19 and we all had to quarantine for 14 days”, said Nick Gandal. To summarize, in the nearly four weeks that the university has been open for, they have started fully online classes, utilized many of their new facilities for COVID-19, put their new safety rules in action, and have had many cases of COVID-19. The Fall 2020 reopening plan is well under way at the University of Maryland and has changed many aspects of college life for all staff and students.