Coronavirus Updates

Image courtesy of Mines Flickr.

As of February 4th, there are a total of 49 active coronavirus cases on campus. That makes a total of 143 cases since the start of the Spring semester. Most of the cases have been students, with one being a staff member. Additionally, most of the cases have been limited to off-campus.

The Colorado School of Mines has maintained its response to the coronavirus pandemic. Its guidelines have remained the same as in the fall semester, as it has continued to enforce social distancing and masks on campus. A large number of classes have remained in person and hybrid, thus reducing to potential for spread. Although there have been a number ofoutbreaks, these have been mainly restricted to fraternities and the traditional halls. A large percentage of the student body has remained uninfected.

The school council, after wavering on their decision, has decided to give the student body spring break off. This comes as a surprise, as there are plenty of in-person school days after the break. This gives the virus a higher chance to spread. However, due to concerns over student well-being, the school has decided to award the student body the break. It remains to see if this will be harmful to Mines’s commitment to remain open, as there is a high risk of infection during break, with increased amounts of travelling.

PCJ, in an email titled “Orediggers: We can do this, but I need your help”, stated his commitment to keeping Mines open until May. In addition, student athletics have opened at Mines. Despite these restrictions being lifted, the chances of Mines remaining open are high if current procedures continue to be followed. Mines has continued to sport an incredibly low rate of infection, especially when compared to neighboring schools such as Boulder. This means that if past trends continue, there may be outbreaks at certain points, but once these pass, the number of active cases on campus will decline once again. So there is a good chance that the school will remain open until May.

Still, nobody knows what Mines will do for E-Days. It is highly unlikely that the school will have anything as extravagant as seen in previous years, with a high risk of infection with celebrations. Thus, Mines students may get the day off, but there will likely be a limited number of events to attend. It’s ultimately speculation at this point, but going by last semester, there may be a concert with virtual attendance. There may also be limited attendance in person, with mandatory use of face masks. Although it puts a damper on spirits, Mines may be forced to comply with state guidelines.

But now, everything is confounded with the arrival of the coronavirus vaccine. Earlier this year, Johnson & Johnson developed a vaccine for the coronavirus. After the vaccine was shown to be effective, Johnson & Johnson applied for emergency-use authorization. The vaccine has yet to be approved, with FDA approval still required. It remains to be seen how a potential COVID vaccine will affect the school’s response.

However, it seems that a vaccine won’t be the ‘silver bullet’ many have been hoping for. Even if it works, there are several variants of coronavirus that have mutated. With so many different strains around, it’s unlikely that there will be a working vaccine for all of them. Coronavirus may end up being a new type of flu, with a required shot with every year, and one that will hopefully match the strain circulated. But all this will take time to develop, so it won’t be immediately relevant. If a vaccine becomes widely available, it certainly won’t be within the next few months.

This all makes for some interesting speculation: what will Mines look like next year? A lot of that depends on the response at the state level. If Colorado loosens up regulations, then Mines will accordingly loosen up. However, this may not happen so soon. There is still strong support for masks and other antiviral measures. In the likely future, there will continue to be masks and social distancing. Although many students enjoy in-person classes, a large percentage like remote learning, and will continue to request online classes while the coronavirus is still a threat. So in the fall semester of 2021, Mines will likely continue to offer hybrid and remote classes, with limited in-person instruction. But if the vaccine is released beforehand, Mines may revert to in-person classes. There is too much uncertainty to give a straightforward answer, however.

One thing can be commended, however: the fact that Mines has still retained such a low rate of active infection. Although it can be attributed to the fact that Mines is not a party school, Mines’s rate of infection is still incredibly low. It’s probably due to the high rate of compliance with the guidelines that has kept Mines successful. Still, the student and staff at Mines have done an incredible job at keeping the infection rate low. Congratulations- let’s keep it up.

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