Morris is Panic City today

At least for me. The students are back and lurking in the dorms. I have a Zoom meeting with advisees today. Classes start on Wednesday. Everything is Officially No Fun for a while.

Besides the usual fretting over getting courses up and running, now we have the added fun of waiting for the first coronavirus case to show up, and seeing how the university deals with it. At least we have the advantage of seeing other universities’ experience. UNC, for instance, has been open for one week and already has four clusters of cases in student housing.

We’re really opening, huh?


  1. raven says

    Besides the usual fretting over getting courses up and running, now we have the added fun of waiting for the first coronavirus case to show up, and seeing how the university deals with it. It’s good that you have been paying attention and learned the basic lesson.

    It is easy to predict where the next Covid-19 virus outbreak will be.
    It is wherever large groups of people gather!!!
    The places where outbreaks happen are churches, factories, gyms, bars, indoor restaurants, food processing plants, nursing homes, schools, universities, etc..

    At this point, all that is left is for UM, Morris to have a plan in place to detect and deal with the inevitable outbreak clusters of Covid-19 cases.

  2. raven says

    The first basic lesson of Covid-19 epidemiology is, it will strike wherever people are gathered in groups.

    The second basic lesson is that the unit of transmission is the family.

    In Wuhan, China and northern Italy, 70-80% of transmission was intrafamily.
    The same pattern is holding everywhere for obvious reasons.
    Who do you spend most of your time with in close quarters anyway?

    I’ve even seen this close up.
    One family I know that lives not too far from me has three people, all of whom have Covid-19.
    They have no idea which one brought it home.

    The Chinese figured this out early and set up large hospitals for people who tested positive to quarantine without going home and infecting their families.
    Needless to say, while the USA could and should set up such a system, they more or less haven’t done so.

  3. robro says

    “…and all the news just repeats itself
    like some forgotten dream
    that we’ve both seen.”

    John Prine, “Hello in There”

  4. robro says

    anchor — Perhaps state operated colleges and universities are being directed to open by the state government. There’s also pressure from the US DoE which is threatening to withhold funding if schools don’t open.

  5. says

    Yeah, we are at the mercy of legislators for funding, so many of our university’s stupidest decisions are dictated to us by Republicans.

    I did meet with a dozen students (over Zoom) this morning, and they at least seemed enthusiastic about the school year, so there is that.

  6. raven says

    One would think institutions of higher learning would know better. Guess not.

    Actually, it is the triumph of hope over experience.

    It’s more complicated than that though.
    There are many good reasons to reopen the universities.
    .1. If they don’t, they’ve lost their reason to exist and will then disappear.
    .2. It’s real easy to say, everyone just get on online and do it remotely by video.
    A lot of students for various reasons can’t do that.
    .3. Many students can’t just move back home. Their parents might have downsized, moved, they’re dead, or they left at 18 to escape an abusive environment (this is way more common than some can imagine.).
    .4. They may be married maybe even with children.
    .5. The foreign students can’t easily just move back home.
    A lot of places restrict flights from the USA and the USA restricts flights from foreign countries.
    ..6. The lab courses, practical courses, internships, work study, libraries, journals, scientific research, etc..
    A university is far more than just a few dorms and lecture halls.

    That being said, we really need to learn how to operate institutions like universities without piling up a huge body count of dead and sick people.
    If we can do it for a mega-city or country, we should be able to do it for a few thousand or tens of thousands of young adults.

  7. raven says

    I do know what PZ is experiencing though.
    There are a lot of colleges and universities around where I live on the coast.

    I see the college students out and about often, as they are starting to filter back in for Fall term.
    The ones I see are usually in groups, close together, and not wearing masks because they are outside. They don’t look like they have even heard of Covid-19 alhough I’m sure they have.

    This is BTW, a common observation at universities all over the USA right now.

    .1. IMO, they are going to have to get into social distancing and the other tactics for infection control to make the Fall term work.
    .2. They may be young, carefree, and immortal as I once was at that age.
    That was long ago.
    I’ve already seen one friend die of Covid-19 and another is permanently disabled.
    I’m not going any where unnecessary after the schools start.

  8. birgerjohansson says

    @8: “…married (maybe even) with children”
    COVID19 has finally created a horror worse than Al Bundy and his family.
    The garrison in Umeå, Sweden (my home town) has had a cluster spreading event. During a maneuver some soldiers fell sick, and now 23 soldiers and a NCO have tested positive and are isolated.
    None of them is seriously sick, but it is a reminder of how easily this virus spreads.
    The students that start arriving here in a week will have to be cautious.

  9. whheydt says

    Well… It’s nowhere near your league, but today is the first day of school for my 12-year-old grandson. It’s all remote. It’s the clusterfuck I expected it to be. At least if one sets expectations low, one is unlikely to be disappointed.

    I do have an edge over most people trying the shepherd a kid through this, though. The system he is using has a VNC daemon running and I have a system with a VNC client, so I can pull his screen up on mine, at will. This helps for fixing the occasional problems as well as making sure he’s doing what he’s supposed to be doing.

  10. birgerjohansson says

    asclepias@11 -If your friend likes science fiction or British detective novels, many of the titles at the town library are books I have donated :-)
    BTW Emmanuelle Charpentier discovered CRISPR-cas9 when she worked at our university.

  11. Sean Boyd says

    raven @8,

    Our school is facing most of those issues with our student body: we’re a community college, and so have a higher percentage of non-traditional students, including working parents, international students, economically challenged persons, and so forth. I’ve seen the issues these students have faced when they come into our online tutoring center. Some have internet connections so bad I’m amazed they can even do an online class. Others I’ve had sign in, then have to apologetically sign out a couple of minutes later because their child is raising hell in the background (the rambunctious kids never bother me…I’m separated by uncounted electrons!) One of our tutors is having visa issues right now, and if she can’t get them resolved, she’ll have to return home to Vietnam, which will be tough financially and difficult in general because of the pandemic.

    We’re fortunate that we have no residence halls, being a commuter college. On the other hand, the universities ’round these parts (Puget Sound area) are reopening dorms, even though instruction will be online. I worry for the safety of the students, but short of a government that would put its citizens first and reinforce our institutions (educational or otherwise), reopening will come sooner than advisable, with the associated shit-show to follow.

  12. raven says

    Some have internet connections so bad I’m amazed they can even do an online class.

    That was one thing I forgot to mention.

    A lot of people are going to have bandwidth and internet provider problems. Huge areas of the country, mostly but not all rural, have “high speed internet” that really isn’t all that high speed. Not enough to even run Zoom very well.

    Plus the gear problems.
    You need the right hardware and software set up the right way to even do an online option.
    For a lot of students, they are going to need technical help just getting the whole system to work.

    A few places are setting up satellite areas with cubicals and gear for students to show up and use. One of the major users of this are a demographic that is hard to imagine, school children who are designated as “homeless”. There are quite a few of those.
    This has its own problems, mostly that it costs money and money for schools right now is very scarce.

    (One of the groups scattered up and down the west coast are…the Mayans. Yeah, those Mayans, the ones that built Chichen Itza and Tikal. Quite of few of them don’t even speak Spanish or not much Spanish. They are Mayans and they speak…Mayan.
    How easy is it for the Mayan community to get their kids and them to online schools?
    I don’t know but I’m sure it is a major task.
    Same with the Mixtecs. They often don’t speak Spanish either.)