COVID-19 Closes Augsburg, Much More Across the Nation

Miles Christopher, staff writer

COVID-19 went from a distant concern to a major part of life for the Augsburg community over the last two weeks, as the growing outbreak in Minnesota and the rest of the country led to closures and cancellations. At first, it seemed as though we might be able to skirt through the coming weeks with only minor inconvenience, but as the full scope of the outbreak has become more apparent, those hopes have been dashed. Cancellations and postponements have given way to full-blown closures, including the closure of campus and the closure of residence halls for most students, following the actions of other private and public universities across the state. Though the situation changes from day to day with almost a dozen emails sent so far by university professionals, it is clear that the rest of the semester will be anything but typical, with classes moved online for at least the rest of the academic year.

With confirmed cases in Minnesota rising to above 280, and the first confirmed death being reported, we’ve entered what is likely to be a rapid acceleration in the speed at which the outbreak grows. According to Kris Ehresmann, Minnesota’s director for infectious diseases at the Department of Health, due to the limited number of tests available, there are likely between 10 and 100 additional infections that we don’t know about for each confirmed one, placing the estimated total between 2,800 and 28,000. Gathering places are being closed, events are being asked to reschedule, and non-essential businesses have been closed, decisions that will likely affect the state’s economy long past the end of COVID-19. 

Governor Tim Walz has issued a stay-at-home order which will come into effect at midnight on Friday. According to MPR, the order will last until April 10th and mandates that Minnesotans not leave their homes except for cases such as “necessary supplies and services”, medical care, helping others, exercise, going to work (for workers deemed essential), and fleeing dangerous situations.

Meanwhile, the virus has continued to take its toll worldwide. Italy has continued to deal with the outbreak’s devastating effects on its health system, with more than 7,500 deaths now being reported. With over 74,000 cases, many of which require medical support, Italy’s doctors have been forced to make triaging decisions on who will receive treatment and who will not. New York is also beginning to face dire issues, with reported cases appearing in all five boroughs as well as in Rikers Island Prison, which has raised concerns about the ability of prisons across the country to adequately prevent outbreaks in their populations.

Despite all of this, President Trump has begun to float the idea of ending the emergency shutdown early, because, “we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem.” He has set Easter as a date for when he wants to see the United States up, running, and “raring to go”. Many have argued that Trump seems to believe that the current period of social distancing has been enough to stall the spread of the virus and hopes that stopping the shutdown early will jumpstart the economy, recovering it from the losses that it has incurred. This directly goes against the advice of the CDC and medical professionals, who warn that ending the shutdown early could result in another explosion in cases, which would, in turn, result in an overwhelmed and underperforming health system, much like Italy. It is predicted that ending social distancing now could lead to 126.5 million infections and 1.3 million deaths, compared to the still-high number of 14 million infections if social distancing lasts for two more months.