By Drake Vittitow
For the editorial board

Between Sept. 21 to Sept. 29, Southwestern has gone from 21 active cases of COVID-19 to 39.

What’s even more alarming is the active case numbers compared to other schools around the Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Out of the seven KCAC schools that regularly post COVID-19 updates, Southwestern’s 39 active cases is the largest, with the next highest being Kansas Wesleyan and McPherson, with two active cases. Bethel College, who had 46 confirmed cases in August, now has zero active cases.

Ottawa University, Bethany College, Oklahoma Wesleyan University and St. Mary’s numbers are not shared with the public. Friends University is not testing their students on campus.

With numbers that are increasing every week, when do we pull the plug and switch to remote learning?

Let’s take Avila University for example. Avila’s main campus is only 20 miles away from Kansas City, yet they only have one active case. Even though Avila is close to a populous city, they keep their numbers down.

One drastic difference between the two campuses is that Avila has designated areas in which students are able to meet via Zoom for class.

This is important because many of SC’s classes are happening in person.

One professor has voiced his concerns about guidelines not being followed as well.

Brad Andrews, president, met with students in a virtual town hall on Sept. 21. During the meeting, he said the biggest obstacle that we face is when the school cannot identify an active case, which leads to interaction with people who have not been exposed.

To combat this, students who test positive will go into isolation. Isolation takes place in Honor Apartments and Reid Apartments.

Having students isolate in Reid Dorms is questionable. Students who aren’t testing positive for COVID-19 live in those dorms. Instead of clearing an entire wing of Reid, the college cleared rooms 105, 108, 207, 306, 307 and 308. These rooms are on all three levels of Reid.

If we are trying to decrease active cases, then why are we putting people who have the virus on all three levels of Reid with people who do not?

Despite these decisions, Southwestern has been proactive in some areas.

During the Zoom meeting on Sept. 21 with all students, Andrews said SC is one of the only schools testing people if they are asymptomatic. Being asymptomatic means that you can still have COVID-19, even if you aren’t showing symptoms.

Another positive is that SC has its own testing machines. This provides almost immediate results after testing and 3,099 tests have been performed as of Sept. 29.

But where are all these cases coming from?

In the Zoom meeting, Andrews said the college leadership suspects the virus is getting passed through social settings. These include small parties, video game sessions and study groups.

Sports may play a part in it as well. During the meeting, the president announced that the Moundbuilder football team postponed their home game against Bethany, due to an increase in COVID-19 cases.

This week, the Moundbuilder volleyball team postponed their tri-match against Ottawa and Avila.

In a statement made by President Andrews via Zoom, which was sent on Sept. 29, he said that there are several players who are still in isolation and the postponement of this week’s game against Bethel is because the football team needed more practice time to prepare.

So far, the entire football team, women’s basketball team and softball team have quarantined, but the number continues to rise. I witnessed firsthand the guidelines not being followed during our first football game at Jantz Stadium. The social distancing guidelines were not being followed and there were minimal masks in sight.

With basketball season around the corner, socially distancing guidelines will become even harder to follow.

At what point do we recognize that sports may be part of the problem?

It is no secret that in order to stay financially stable, Southwestern must remain open.

The college leadership needs to make a fundamental choice. Do they care more about the students, faculty and staff that make up the Builder family, or do they care more about the longevity of the college?

How many updates are we going to get until we see a number in the death category on the health page?

I am grateful that we have been proactive in our testing. We have tested more than any other school in the KCAC. Despite these precautions, we all have questions that have yet to be addressed:

  • How often are our administrators communicating with colleges around the conference?
  • At what point do we cancel sports?
  • Is there any way that facts can be communicated in a timelier manner?
  • Is there a contingency plan?
  • Can that plan be shared with us?
  • At what point do we switch to remote learning?

I think about what will happen if active cases continue to rise when we go home for break. After having spent the semester putting each other at risk, we might infect our families and loved ones as well.