As students return to mask-free campus, reported COVID-19 case numbers remain low – THE EXPONENT
As students return to mask-free campus, reported COVID-19 case numbers remain low – THE EXPONENT

As students return to mask-free campus, reported COVID-19 case numbers remain low – THE EXPONENT

After the first full week of teaching under Baldwin Wallace’s new health protocols, which included in particular the revocation of its mask mandate for the entire campus, BW reported only 2 COVID-19 cases on campus on March 18th.

According to figures released by the university on its BW Be Safe COVID-19 dashboard, 1 employee tested positive and 1 student isolated himself from campus at the time of press. Students, faculty, and staff who test positive must isolate themselves for 5 days, after which they can break the isolation and practice strict mask for another 5 days, provided they have no symptoms.

“Since the beginning of last semester, BW has adjusted the COVID-19 protocols to respond to the omicron variant,” a university statement read on the BW Be Safe dashboard. “Following an expected increase in cases early this semester, student and staff cases have declined markedly and have remained at a low level.”

While the numbers are encouraging, they do not mean that BW is completely out of the woods yet. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the incubation period for COVID-19 is between 2 and 14 days with a median of 5 days, and the latest batch of reported cases largely covers only the 5 days since full campus activities resumed. BW reports case figures every Friday.

In addition, Baldwin Wallace suspended surveillance testing in early February, meaning the dashboard now only consists of self-reported cases. Contact tracking was also interrupted. While BW requires community members for positive self-tests, it is difficult to know the exact number of cases with absolute certainty.

Still, the low reported numbers are consistent with the COVID-19 picture in Cuyahoga County in general. Pr. March 17 was the 7-day average of new cases 43, the New York Times reported.

While cases in Europe and elsewhere have begun to rise in recent weeks as a result of the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, which is now beginning to be discovered in U.S. states, it is unclear how, if at all, Cuyahoga County and the United States will be affected.

US health experts have said that since the first Omicron rise in December affected so many Americans – officials have estimated that almost half of Americans have built up immunity to the virus, and an estimate puts the figure as high as 73% – BA. 2 is unlikely to make such a large dent on this side of the Atlantic.

“I do not expect a big increase here, but we need to be very mindful and really driven by data, as we have done throughout the pandemic,” said incoming White House Covid-19 Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha.

As experts determine what action regarding BA.2 is needed, Baldwin Wallace will continue to monitor the guidance of relevant health authorities and the CDC. In a February interview prior to BW’s repeal of the mask mandate, Dan Karp, assistant vice president and director of university relations, told The Exponent what goes into the university’s decisions regarding COVID-19 protocols.

“We have been saying all along that if the CDC takes a step before we are ready to take a step, then we may need to speed up our plan,” Karp said. “But again, it all depends on what’s actually happening in reality, whatever policy you know, what’s happening on campus and in our area.”
While Karp told The Exponent that there is no specific benchmark or set of criteria that would trigger a new change in protocols, he said that although it is not mandatory at the moment, mask wearing is still a positive approach.

“For many reasons, we encourage people to continue wearing [masks]said Karp. “If the CDC came out with, you know, ‘you do not have to demand that we encourage people to wear masks for a number of reasons,’ we will reflect that in our efforts.”

Do you have any thoughts or concerns regarding BW’s new health and safety protocols? Do you agree or disagree with the repeal of the mask mandate? The exponent would like to hear from you! Letters to the editor are encouraged as a method of bringing issues of concern to the eyes of the public. Letters must be written, limited to a maximum of 300 words, contain a full name and include a telephone number for confirmation. Letters can be sent to The Exponent via email to our CEO Nicki Hodgkiss at [email protected]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.