Coleman conveys that consideration is key

By Hunter Ellis, Multimedia Managing Editor

As Xavier faces the highest number of active positive cases on campus since the start of the pandemic, Chair of the COVID-19 Task Force Jeff Coleman encouraged the community to be considerate of one another as the university overcomes challenges posed by the virus.

While other universities in the tri-state area, including the University of Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky University, transitioned to remote learning, Xavier returned to campus as planned.

“A number of universities have taken different approaches to returning to campus, including pushing the start of the semester back a few weeks to bringing their students back to campus but keeping them out of the classrooms,” Coleman said.

When considering how Xavier should approach the start of the spring semester, Coleman noted it was important that the task force considered every option, but not every option made sense for the university.

“Keeping students out of the classroom didn’t seem to make a lot of sense to us, because what we’ve found is that the classrooms are our safest places on campus… so we ruled that out,” he stated.

Coleman said the university heavily considered the community’s track record when making their decision to return to campus, noting the task force has learned from its experiences and successes the past few semesters when dealing with by COVID-19.

Despite these experiences, Coleman explained that the task force was expecting a surge in cases regardless of when students returned to campus, due to the highly transmissible nature of the Omicron variant.

“We were going to have a surge in cases no matter when we brought our students back. Whether we brought them back this week or next week or later in January, we were going to have a surge,” Coleman said.

Just as the task force expected, there was a surge of cases among the Xavier community as students began their returns to campus. 

As of Tuesday, there were 141 active positive cases on campus, a number which has declined by nearly half since Saturday.

However, unlike the surge in cases brought about by the Delta variant in the fall of 2021 when cases fell just as quickly as it rose, the task force expects that cases may plateau at a high amount for two to three weeks.

Coleman cited two main reasons for this belief, stating, “The transmissibility is so high that a number of students and employees are going to get this regardless of what you do, whether you’re masked or boosted or not… and we also have a holiday weekend coming up.”

As the Center for Disease Control and local health administrative bodies adjust their guidelines in the upcoming weeks, Coleman noted that Xavier’s guidelines may change, potentially including a mandate for a COVID-19 booster shot.

“We are leaning towards requiring the booster shot sooner rather than later, and a number of universities have already started requiring the booster shot, so we are anticipating sometime this semester requiring the booster shot,” Coleman said.

While Xavier may face unforeseen obstacles as a result of COVID-19, Coleman emphasized that a switch to virtual learning is very unlikely.

He reiterated that being able to cooperate with one another and pivot when necessary will be as important as ever to a successful semester.

“Continue to be considerate of one another. We have a strong plan in place, but we have some unknowns that may come in two to three weeks that we don’t know how it will play out. But we’ll get through it together, like we always have,” Coleman said.