If I was to use one word to describe the 2020 spring semester for East Carolina University students, unexpected would be an understatement. From an additional week of spring break to a full transition to online-only classes, there is no way to tell what the upcoming semester will hold.

One thing that is to be expected is if wearing a mask on campus is not enforced to some degree, it will lead to a significant spike in COVID-19 cases at ECU. This will likely lead to classes being moved online for the remainder of the fall semester and even the spring semester if the spike is bad enough.

ECU released campus safety guidelines on June 22 titled “Return of Pirate Nation.” As of July 1, it is required for all students and staff to wear a face covering when in a public setting and when in a face-to-face meeting on campus. It is crucial that the university makes the commitment to reduce and prevent the spread of COVID-19, especially in high density areas of campus.

Residence halls will be one of the most dangerous areas for students if there is no enforcement of the mask wearing protocol. Students being in that close of proximity to each other makes sickness spread more quickly, especially between those with a weaker immune system.

Dining halls and other eating areas will also prove to be a cesspool for germs and COVID-19, as it is another high traffic area of campus. Even though seating areas will be moved to accommodate social distancing protocols, one person not wearing a mask can infect many in a short area.

In addition, face coverings may be the only line of defense for those who are immuno-compromised. If they have no choice but to return to campus for the advancement of their education, those students need to be kept in mind by administration.

While I offer no ideas or ways to enforce this, some attempt must be made by ECU’s administration to do so. This will send a message to students that the health of those at risk is important to the university and we are not returning just so the school makes money.

ECU needs to step up and not only require face coverings on campus, but to enforce it as well. Not doing so will prove catastrophic for the university and its students and employees.

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