Classes remain remote as Guilford extends ‘Phase 2’ on campus


Delaney Nightingale ‘23

Juliana Hubbard ‘23 starts out the week doing classwork in her dorm on Monday, Feb. 8.

Following another 23 positive COVID-19 cases on campus, Interim President Carol Moore announced on Feb. 3 that Guilford College will continue operating under Phase 2 protocol for an additional week.

In addition to the restriction of social gatherings and limited dining options, Phase 2 requires all classes to be conducted completely online. The policy was initially implemented on Jan. 24, following an unprecedented spike of positive cases, which included 12 on-campus students.

“The first surge we had two weeks ago, that caught us off guard… we were not prepared,” said Director of Public Safety Jermaine Thomas. “We didn’t have the staffing… I take full responsibility for what happened there.”

Two weeks after this surge, students who were asked to quarantine have been able to return to their normal living conditions. Matthew Climbingbear, a Guilford junior, spent a week living in Bryan Hall.

“I’m not claustrophobic but it made me claustrophobic. It messed with my motivation and mental health,” said Climbingbear in an interview. “Being cooped up in a small room, with limited resources, having someone else get your food, hoping that you’re brought everything you need—it’s very overwhelming.” 

Though the quarantine period may be over for those who tested positive in mid-January, Guilford’s classes will remain online through at least Feb. 14. The College’s decision to remain in Phase 2 marks the fourth consecutive week of remote learning for Guilford students since the start of the spring semester.

Beth Ritson, a theatre professor at Guilford, has struggled with teaching in an online format. 

“I have enjoyed going deeper into the theoretical pedagogy of acting with my students… yet all this is only beneficial if the student can then apply it to their acting in a scene or play,” said Ritson in an email interview. “Acting theory can only get you so far. It’s like teaching the students to swim without water.”  

Online learning has also been difficult for some students, including Climbingbear. 

“I’ve struggled to transition into online learning,” said the junior film major. “Some people do it all the time for their college education, but I would much rather have the professor in front of me. It’s really draining to have your education be dependent on (an internet service) you can’t connect to half the time.”

Things have begun to improve at Guilford, as a voluntary testing clinic held on Feb. 3 which included 260 community members revealed no new positive cases. All students, faculty, and staff that plan to be on campus after Feb. 15 were required to attend a mandatory testing clinic either on Tuesday, Feb. 9 or Wednesday, Feb. 10. As plans now stand—and if this latest testing clinic does not reveal another spike—Guilford will move to Phase 3 operation at the beginning of next week on Feb. 15, marking the beginning of a return to normality. 

“Phase 3 is where we left off last semester… it’s going to mirror what we did last year,” said Thomas. “Athletics will practice, the cafeteria will be dine-in and clubs and events will be able to start gathering in a safer environment.” 

Fortunately for Guilford students, cases in the US and in Guilford County are on a downward trend. According to the CDC, the US positivity rate has declined from 15.4% in the beginning of January to 9.7% at the end of the month. Guilford County began the month with a 19.4% positivity rate, and ended it with a 7.8% rate, according to Guilford County’s official website. The high percentage of positive cases which rang in the New Year is largely thought to be a result of the holiday season. Concerningly, the Super Bowl could precipitate another spike.

“From our recent contact tracing efforts, we know that some of the surge of positive cases we have had on campus has been a result of gatherings and sporting event watch parties,” wrote Thomas in an email to the Guilford Community on Friday. “With the Super Bowl taking place this weekend we must emphasize that we are in complete control of our actions.”

Despite these possible concerns, Guilford members are looking forward to less restrictive days. 

“I am ready to give everybody hugs again,” said Climbingbear when asked about prospective activities post-COVID.

Guilford’s fate this semester rests in the hands of its students, and Thomas hopes that everyone will continue to do their part in discouraging the spread of the virus. 

“Just remain vigilant,” he instructs all students. “There’s a pathway out of this, but we still have a long way to go. We have a long way to go this semester… try to protect yourself and others at all times, and act like everyone has the virus.”