It seemed that everything was normal, until all of a sudden, it wasn’t. Northwest students were midway through a chilly spring break, hopefully enjoying a rest from classes, when the whole world seemed to shift. March 11, COVID-19 went from a punchline for many on Twitter to shutting down sports, spreading fear and causing a toilet paper shortage for some reason.
Northwest, to its credit, handled the situation with clarity, focus and care, which seemed to be in short supply on that day.
The World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus outbreak a pandemic March 11, and more dominoes continued to fall as NBA player Rudy Gobert tested positive for the virus, which shut down the NBA season, the NCAA tournament was canceled, and all large gatherings were postponed or outright canceled. This left universities in a difficult spot, and they had to act fast because questions of how the semester would proceed would mount up fast.
Northwest responded with an email from President John Jasinski postponing in-person classes until March 23, effectively giving the University more time to monitor the outbreak. This gave students immediate notice about how the next week was going to look and allowed them ample time to make plans for classes being moved online.
The coronavirus outbreak has been a constantly evolving issue since it hit the U.S., meaning that decisions as to how to proceed need to be made incrementally as new information becomes available.
As it became clear that social distancing was the next step, the University wasted little time in announcing the postponement of in-person classes March 16 and that classes will be online-only beginning March 23 and will stay in that format for at least two weeks.
The Trump administration did not show the same initiative, as President Donald Trump decided to play the blame game with someone who hasn’t been in office for more than three years. The Trump administration also claimed that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had plenty of tests, “no testing kit shortage, nor has there ever been,” Alex Azar, the secretary of health and human services said, and Trump later condemned the CDC for not having enough kits in a tweet. The leader of the free world, ladies and gentlemen.
Luckily for Northwest students, University leadership has not been constantly placing its foot in its mouth. The University has been frequently updating professors and students of the situation and has shown that keeping the pandemic from Northwest is at the forefront of its agenda.
Northwest has also encouraged faculty to get in touch with students and communicate how classes will move forward the rest of the semester. This can greatly decrease anxiety for both students and professors over how to proceed for the next few months.
Going from a campus that relies mostly on in-person classes to one that is strictly online will not be easy. There will be mishaps and mistakes, and some people will be upset, but Northwest has done an admirable job in handling this crisis so far and for that all involved deserve credit.