Local universities say they’re getting used to new normal
MARYLAND – Facemasks – social distancing – and a whole lot of hand washing. That’s what college looks like these days during the times of COVID-19. Classes at Salisbury University started Monday. At the University of Maryland Eastern Shore in Princess Anne, they’re already in full swing.
Faculty and students are getting used to their new normal at both schools. “We have to work together. We have to wear our masks and stay social distanced – and make sure we wash our hands and do everything to keep the environment as clean as possible,” said President of UMES Dr. Heidi Anderson.
President of Salisbury University Dr. Charles Wight says the preparations for the fall semester have taken months. “There are many parts and pieces to this. It’s not just signage. It’s not just putting stickers on the floor. It’s re-configuring all of the classrooms for this reduced density,” said Dr. Wight.
Dr. Wight says that so far, students have been following safety precautions and trying to keep each other safe. “Students are really paying attention to the social distancing. When I walk across campus everyone’s wearing a mask,” said Dr. Wight.
Those preparations include testing everyone for COVID-19, moving students into dorms while socially distancing, and shifting some classes to online learning. Students say having to go virtual during the spring semester helped them to prepare for the fall. But remembering to stay safe has been a challenge. “Having to remember yes, this is your friend. But you have no idea if your friend is carrying COVID. A lot of people are asymptomatic,” said Salisbury University senior Kirstyn Dugger.
At UMES – the sentiment among students is the same. “Do not take this for granted. Don’t think that you can’t catch it. Don’t think that you’re safe because you haven’t been around anyone,” said UMES senior Jahad Martin.
UMES students went through a similar move in process – and are also doing most classes online. School officials say that the biggest challenge right now is making sure that they still have resources left over after all the safety preparations for this semester. “When you look around, our campus is beautiful. But I have flooding that happens. I need the resources for that. We have infrastructure, technology needs. We really need help there,” said Dr. Anderson.
Both UMES and Salisbury University are reporting a positivity rate under one percent. School leaders say that’s a good sign for the coming year. Both universities have separate housing dedicated to students who have tested positive for COVID-19.