And sooner than you think. Here’s what you need to know.

COVID cases pretty much quadrupled in Mon County in the first half of July, from 160 to way over 600—and here come the students. 

So we have questions, and we’re guessing you do, too. Here’s the latest.

When are students back? Sooner than you think. Classes don’t start until August 19, but move-in starts at university apartments like College Park and University Place on Saturday, August 1—two weeks from now. Students start moving into dorms on August 8. Move-in is early and long this year to spread it out and minimize contact.

What is WVU doing to make this safe? They can’t seal campus off from town, but they’re doing a lot. Testing everyone on return and monitoring through the semester. Issuing masks and hand sanitizer to everyone. Requiring students, faculty, and staff to wear face coverings on campus, with penalties of warnings, suspension, and expulsion. Moving classes online, moving activities outdoors, and creating distance in in-person classes. There’s lots more—you can read about it on the university’s Return to Campus web pages. If you’re thinking it’s only as good as the enforcement, we couldn’t agree more.

But what about bar-hopping? Yeah—great question. This is where the city and county come in. The rules that became effective July 15 in both Morgantown and Monongalia County weren’t a knee-jerk reaction to the early-July spike—they were a response to the spike that readies us against bigger, badder spikes once the students get back. They work together.

Part 1: Three strikes. This rule recognizes that the managers of places where people congregate indoors—we’re talking bars, but also restaurants, gyms, and other public places—are the best ones to prevent the spread. There are lots of threes here: Any establishment associated with an outbreak—that’s three cases—is shut down for three days for deep cleaning and inspection. A second outbreak shuts it down for 14 days, deep cleaning, and inspection. And a third outbreak shuts it down indefinitely. This rule aligns businesses’ wish to stay open with the rest of our wish to stop the spread.

Part 2: Masks with teeth. Wear a mask in public indoor spaces, for real now—this is what gives businesses control. They can now require patrons to wear masks or leave; those who refuse can be charged with trespassing. Patrons who witness failure to enforce can contact the Health Department.

Violations can be charged as misdemeanors and punished with fines of up to $500. You can read the details in the City of Morgantown’s July 14 emergency ordinance and the Monongalia County Health Department’s July 14 ordinance

Final thoughts for this week The university has planned and prepared this return for months, and the city and county have shown an astonishing and welcome level of cooperation—we at Morgantown magazine are encouraged. Those of you who are about to comment “as if any of this will be enforced” “this is a stupid hoax” or “we’re doomed,” check your attitude. This thing is happening and we need constructive ideas, not Eeyores.

posted on July 16, 2020

written by Pam Kasey

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Pam Kasey
Written by Pam Kasey
Pam Kasey has traveled, brewed, farmed, counseled, and renovated, but most loves to write. She has degrees in economics from the University of Chicago and in journalism from West Virginia University. She loves celebrating Morgantown and West Virginia as executive editor at New South Media.