Should HBCU Students Take Up Mask Wearing as a Social Justice Movement, Delaware State Raises $1M in Student Support Funding and Hampton Releases Re-Opening Roadmap

Photo: Associated Press/John Raoux

Southern Politics Putting HBCU Communities in Public Health Jeopardy

Coronavirus cases are spiking throughout the south, following weeks of reopened commerce, social gatherings, and protests.

The increased number of infections are most prevalent among younger Americans, and according to CNN, not symbolic of the beginning of the second wave of the COVID-19 global pandemic, but the middle of the initial onslaught.

In Texas, the governor said last week people under 30 made up a majority of new coronavirus cases in several counties. He said that increase in young infected people could be related to Memorial Day parties, visits to bars or other gatherings.

And in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Saturday cases are "shifting in a radical direction" toward populations in their 20s and 30s. Those younger groups, he said, are mostly asymptomatic and don't require clinical attention.

Experts have raised alarm about Florida's climbing cases, saying the state could become the next US coronavirus epicenter. The number of coronavirus cases reached a milestone Monday as the state reported 100,217 cases, according to data released by the Florida Department of Health.

Saturday, Florida reported 4,049 new cases -- the most reported in a single day.

Nearly half of the United States is seeing increases in weekly averages of infections — 12 of the 21 states have HBCU communities.

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Kansas, Oregon, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Younger people are getting infected more often in states and cities where HBCUs are socioeconomic anchors, and those institutions are caught in sociopolitical tensions of residents not wearing masks and governments expediting reopening.

From Courthouse News:

Alabama allowed businesses and restaurants to open in May. Harris said he thinks people, who were understandably craving a return to normal life, did not take enough precautions. He said the large upswing in cases came a few weeks after Memorial Day gatherings and that mask-wearing continues to seem hit or miss.

“We still get communication from the public every day from people who think we created some hoax for some nefarious purpose,” Harris said.

Dr. Don Williamson, a former state health officer who heads the Alabama Hospital Association, says hospitals are managing for now but the trends are worrying.

“This is the first day you’ll hear me say these words: I am now worried,” Williamson said. “I am worried that the virus is now ahead of us and we aren’t doing enough as individuals to contain it.”

HBCUs are just a few weeks away from student-athletes and faculty returning to campus, and less than two months from general reopening according to a few released plans from a handful of schools. They will return to business in the midst of rising numbers and hostile blends of personal freedoms and public health social contracts — and if everyone doesn’t cooperate, it could turn students who are eager to return to campus quickly towards home; for those who have homes to which they can go.

It begs the question — should those students take up mask-wearing as a social justice issue? Should they take to social media and petition lawmakers to make mask wearing a public mandate, if not for public safety than for the logistical interests of keeping their campuses open for more than a few weeks?

Because if they don’t and they get sick or HBCU campuses get closed down again, what’s the likelihood that they’ll return for another restart?

Delaware State Raises $1 Million for Student Assistance Fund

Delaware’s flagship historically black institution has raised more than $1 million in support of a COVID-19 student relief initiative.

Delaware State University’s COVID-19 Student Emergency Relief Fund attracted support from more than a dozen corporations and non-profit partners, and gifts from alumni and supporters, which according to officials has provided more than 1,000 students with financial support.

“I cannot be more pleased with the response from our Alumni, community leaders, and corporate friends,” (Delaware State President Tony) Allen said. “We are living in a moment so many of us have never experienced – a health epidemic not seen in a century and a rallying cry for justice that rings loudly in every community in the country. Meeting this goal is just one indication that inertia is not an option.”

Hampton Reveals Campus Fall Re-Opening Plan

Hampton University has released its plan for re-opening the campus for fall instruction, with mandatory testing for faculty, students and staff, reduced capacity, and required quarantine emergency planning as highlights of the plan.

Officials say that classrooms and residential spaces will be reduced by 50%, and instruction will be offered through in-person and hybrid classes. Large gatherings will be limited and all campus community members will be required to bring personal protective equipment to campus.

Students, faculty, and staff who test positive for coronavirus or who are exposed through contact tracing will be required to quarantine away from campus for a mandatory 14-day period, and students will have to make arrangements for off-campus accommodations.

Hampton joins Florida A&M University and Morgan State University on the list of HBCUs to publicize re-opening plans in recent weeks.