Hot Zone

August 30, 2020. August is closing down, which makes it feel as if the summer is closing down, though we still officially have three weeks left till the equinox makes it official. All the late-summer flowers are out: blue cornflower, orange jewel weed, Queen Anne’s lace, and a slew of others I don’t know the names of. Some are already wilting. Today’s cool breeze is enough to signal what’s ahead in the weather. Summer’s closing down. Oh, yeah, and the school is closing down. In the past five days we’ve gone from zero to 105 positive COVID cases, some of which must have first been symptomatic before they were reported. Someone on facebook mapped it on a graph–the sharp upward slope of it looked impressive but it didn’t look good. If only my retirement moved like that!

I expect in the coming weeks some kind of inquiry will draw conclusions about where to lay blame. To be kind, we’ll say many missteps were made, such as the decision not to actually test students before they arrived on campus but to rely on self-reporting, or to not ban Greek rush before the parties started, or what appears to be a major lack of coordination between administration and local government and health officials–seems like much of the discussion is coming after the numbers started to climb. My information comes from conversations on many different platforms. To be kind, let’s say many on campus are not pleased with the current situation.

Today the SUNY Chancellor posed an intervention and ordered what they’re calling a COVID Swat Team to campus to conduct massive testing of students (and I hope staff and faculty, as well). It sounds dramatic, though I don’t think it will entail either Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman in Hazmat suits (though that would be impressive) or Homeland Security pulling students into unmarked vans (that would be terrifying). Still, while no one wanted this outcome, it was easy to see it coming. Why, oh why, we are asking, was this not entirely anticipated?