An Airport Screening

Ciera Miller, Contributing Writer

   On March 15, I flew into the capital of the United States from Paris, France. It was the second day of Coronavirus screenings in the U.S. The plane I was on taxied took an additional 45 minutes in its hanger to allow the airport time to accept us without accidentally infecting its other passengers. An elderly woman in her 70s with a chronic back condition begged the flight attendants to let her off because she couldn’t stand nor sit down without being in incredible pain; they told her there was nothing they could do to help her, she would have to sit and wait.

   When my fellow passengers and I were finally allowed off the plane, we were separated from the inside of the airport. We followed a passageway whose windows looked into gates and terminals where passengers were waiting for their own flights to board. A little girl with a pacifier in her mouth waved at us as we walked by. Airport representatives wearing light blue gloves, some with masks over their mouths, gave us our customs papers and boarded us onto a shuttle that took us to the opposite side of the airport. There, we waited an additional ten minutes before we were allowed inside for the Coronavirus screening process.

   Inside was an unsterilized room with two lines: one for those who were staying in Washington, D.C., and those who had connecting flights to other parts of the country. I joined the huddle of passengers with connecting flights, who were all squeezed together with their hands in their pockets to avoid touching others. The screening took an additional half an hour, 20 minutes of which consisted of waiting in the large huddle. The door was about 100 feet from the front of the group and moving slowly. When I finally caught a glance of the screening process, I saw ten representatives (probably healthcare workers and/or doctors) from the Center for Disease Control dressed head to toe in blue scrubs, mouths and noses masked, sitting at two tables intersected to make an ‘L’. When they were ready for a new passenger, they waved a small American flag.

   When I was flagged over, I saw the representatives wore blue gloves as well. I handed mine the document which said I’d been in Schengen Province (also known as mainland Europe) for at least the last two weeks, I hadn’t had any symptoms (as observed by myself), and that my last stop was in Maine. He asked where I’d been while in Europe, if I’d recently been to Italy or Iran as both countries are highly infected, and if I’d had any symptoms. I told him I’d been studying about an hour outside of Paris, no I hadn’t been to Italy or Iran, and no I didn’t have any symptoms.

   He didn’t take my temperature. He didn’t wait to see if I dry coughed. He didn’t check my lungs for signs of trouble breathing. He took my word for it that I didn’t have any symptoms, put a sticker on my customs card, and told me to tell the security guards by the shuttle back into the airport that I wasn’t infected. He gave me a packet telling me about self-quarantine and what steps I should take since I’ve been in an infected country and waved the stars and stripes for someone else to move forward.

   All of it took less than five minutes. The screening was a joke. I could’ve lied. I could’ve been ignorant of having symptoms. I could’ve spread the Coronavirus to the capital of the United States. The doctor wouldn’t have known because he just took my word for it without testing me for a positive or negative result. This is what was happening in American airports across the country for the first week of the country’s national emergency, and it might still be happening now. Though I hope that the screening has gotten far better, for the sake of other American citizens.

   I have been self-quarantining for the last two weeks for the sake of others because COVID-19 can develop between 2-14 days from exposure, and if I do have the Coronavirus, I don’t want to accidentally spread it. After my quarantine is up, I plan to practice social distancing like the rest of the country to keep myself, my family and friends, and the rest of the country safe. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) suggests the same.

A Senior Year Cut Too Short

Jade Petrie Contributing Writer

    UMF seniors have been hit hard by the decision to move all courses to online distance modalities for the remainder of the semester, in response to the spread of the Coronavirus. With campus closed and major spring semester activities and events cancelled, seniors are grieving over the loss of their final semester on campus and the sudden, unexpected departure from friends.    

    Three seniors, Keilly Lynch, Noah Nicholas and Suther Bickford, agreed to share their thoughts on the current situation and found many of their feelings to be similar. While they all seemed to be understanding of the situation, and knew that it was much larger than the University, “It is unfortunate and heart breaking, but at the end of the day I understand that health and safety always comes first,” Lynch said via email.

    “I have been pretty upset about the situation overall. Having the senior year experience be cut short is very difficult,” Nicholas said through an interview over email. “[I’ve had to] say goodbye to close friends and relationships I’ve built at UMF, as well as staff members.”

    Bickford shared similar sentiments via email, but noted the disappointment with learning news of the closure from alternative sources, before hearing from UMF administrators. “This situation has been rough. I was upset that I heard the news first from a news article on Facebook.”

    “Originally, I thought it would mostly remain a major issue in places such as Italy and China,” said Nicholas. “I definitely did not think we would be in a National State of Emergency. I thought it would be similar to when the Swine flu was spreading several years ago.”

    With sports seasons cancelled and Lynch being the one and only senior captain on the women’s lacrosse team, she looked at this situation with two different perspectives. “My first reaction was frustration. I was happy to hear the news that my season was cancelled from my coach, as opposed to another news source. However, it was definitely abrupt and unexpected”

    All sports teams were fortunate enough to hear the news directly from their coach, directly following a meeting all coaches attended to get the new information regarding their season and how it will not be finished. “I began reflecting on how fortunate I was to have the opportunity to play lacrosse at the collegiate level. Many athletes finish their sports careers at the end of high school, so I was extremely lucky to have an extra three full seasons of lacrosse at UMF,” Lynch said. Even though Lynch’s season was cut short she was thankful for the time she had and the friendships she made. This sentiment was shared amongst the others as well.

An Out of State Student’s Perspective: Coronavirus in New Jersey

Brooke Valentin Contributing Writer

    Governor Phil Murphy of New Jersey has put the entire state on lockdown due to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). On Saturday, March 21, Murphy ordered all residents to stay home, banned all gatherings, and told nonessential businesses to close in order to slow the spread of Coronavirus. The people excluded from this are: health care workers, emergency responders, some federal offices, food bank workers and grocery store workers as well as other employees deemed essential staff. People are advised only to leave their home for essential needs, such as groceries and essential medicines and to visit family or others you have a “close personal relationship with” such as a significant other. The state also has an 8 p.m. curfew and people will be given a ticket if violating this curfew.

    Many people in the state have begun social distancing and have not left their home unless absolutely necessary. Miranda Redish, a student at Middlesex County College in New Jersey, will have to start changing her normal routine from attending classes and spending time with friends. “Since my school has switched to online learning, I would say it’s more difficult because I’m more of a hands-on learner,” said Redish. “It’s been really tough adjusting to this new routine.” 

    Many colleges across the country have switched to remote learning, which has been a challenge for many students. Redish is grateful she can access the internet at home but that is not the case for many students. “My daily life has changed. Instead of going out with friends and visiting family I’ve been spending more time at home unless I have to work. I’m doing everything I can to help stop the spread of this virus so life can go back to normal. More people should be taking this seriously.” Redish said.

    In New Jersey there are 13,386 people infected with COVID-19 and there have been 161 deaths according to a New York Times Coronavirus tracker as of this afternoon. Governor Murphy is encouraging people to stay home and avoid social contact with anyone outside of their social circle, but many are still not taking the virus seriously and are continuing to go about their daily lives. 

    Douglas Brook, a dairy clerk at Shoprite, has witnessed people out like nothing is happening. “I’ve seen people come into the store with their entire families, ignoring the governor’s request that only one person go out of their house if they need to,” Brook said. 

    This virus is serious and can affect you if you’re young or old. “People are still going to their friends houses and not taking social distancing seriously,” said Brook. “Just this weekend, a group of my friends got together and hung out. They think because they are young this virus can’t affect them.”

    New Jersey is opening a number of testing centers throughout the state. Passaic County is opening its first testing center for residents at William Paterson University. Other universities, such as Kean University, are following suit. There will also be a bigger testing center at the PNC Bank Arts Center. Practicing social distancing and staying home, no matter where you are, is crucial.

Equestrian Club Relieves Stress by Riding Horses

Abbie Hunt Contributing Writer

Editor’s Note: Given the current pandemic and saturation of the news with COVID-19 related stories and updates, we chose to publish this club-centered piece, despite the campus closure, to give our readers a break from stressful content and show what there is to look forward to when campus reopens.

    The UMF Equestrian Club, a club open to all students, offers students a way to melt worries and bring focus. Most members of the club are passionate about horses and love spending time with animals. 

    President Jess Cloutier, who started the club, has years of experience working with horses and animals, works as a riding instructor on a farm, and is passionate about riding horses. “School can be a really stressful place but farming and being on a horse is simple,” she said. “When you ride a horse it’s not easy to forget they are a living, breathing, feeling animal… you owe them your patience and compassion. It doesn’t matter what’s due in biology, it matters what’s happening right now to that animal who trusts you to take care of it.”

    Members of the club can ride and spend time with other animals at Martin Woods Farm in Starks, which is owned by one of UMF’s professors, Dr. Martin. “When I am at the barn I don’t have to stress or think about anything else; I can be in the moment,” Farrin said. “Horses tell you how it is, there is no masking your feelings from them and they reflect it back to you. In this sense I feel that I am my true self when at the barn around the horses and riding.”

    Jordan Farrin, Vice President, became a member when Cloutier asked for her help starting up the club. Farrin has experience with horses and has kept her horse at Martin’s Farm before. “I envisioned the club as a safe, fun community where college students can come enjoy barn life, and learn to ride horses; a skill that many people never get the chance to learn,” she said.

     Suzanna Dibden, a newer member of the club who joined in October, loves animals and enjoys being outside, but she had never ridden a horse before. Dibden met Cloutier through their Positive Psychology class, where they connected on their conversations about the mental health benefits of being outdoors and bonding with an animal. Dibden then decided to join the Equestrian Club to step out of her comfort zone and try something new. “I like spending time outdoors and getting to know the horse,” said Dibden. “It’s a really special thing to communicate with an animal and to get to know their unique personalities.”

     The club rides twice a week at Martin Woods Farm. Everyone is welcome to go ride during those times, but it is not required. “We try to work with everyone’s busy schedules,” Cloutier said. Besides riding, the club hosts bonfires and relay races, which typically don’t involve horses, but just farm interaction. If anyone is interested in joining the club, Cloutier is open to students reaching out to her through email.

     Even though not everyone enjoys going to the farm to ride horses, the club also offers a safe place to escape the business of life. “Sometimes club members just come out to brush a pony, or hold a bunny,” Cloutier said.  “If anything the entire club wants people to feel welcomed at the farm to exist as they are. Anyone is welcome, everyone is welcome.”

The Latest Updates on Travel Courses During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Kathleen Perry Contributing Writer

    The May travel courses have been announced, but there is great uncertainty as to whether the students will be able to partake in them or not, due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus.

    This is the time that the global education professor, Linda Beck, usually posts new course offerings for the May Term. This year’s trips were to be offered with locations including Boston, Germany, Nepal, Spain, and Coastal New England, and could have ranged anywhere from four days to two weeks. However, due to the COVID-19 virus, no one knows what the next day will bring. 

    This virus is now classified as a pandemic and there are cases in all 50 states within the U.S. It originated in China, and only now are they beginning to recover as it spreads to the rest of the world. The worst cases as of recent, are in Italy and have led to over 11,591 deaths, according to a New York Times Coronavirus tracking map as of this afternoon. Though this virus puts the elderly, those with diabetes, and individuals with heart problems at the highest risk, anyone can perish due to the severity of this virus’s symptoms.

    If institutions have reopened and are safe by May, students who chose to travel to Boston will be visiting special education schools. They will be learning about how they can use different strategies to make their educational environment as inclusive as possible. This trip will be led by Kate MacLeod and Brian Cavanaugh from May 17-20. 

    As of right now, everyone in the U.S. is being instructed to stay home and avoid all unnecessary travel. Social distancing is another strategy which is being implemented for the people of America, as well as for those in other countries. With these conditions, subject to change, it’s safer for everyone to stay where they are. 

    Before COVID-19 became a pandemic, there was a plan to have an Iceland trip from May 13th, through the 27th. This trip would have been led by Julia Daly and Rachel Hovel and it could have been counted for a general education requirement for a natural science course; it would’ve been entitled Aquatic Ecosystems of Iceland. 

    Hovel said that the course would’ve entailed students collecting “data in streams and rivers to understand the landscape and geological processes that influence biological communities in aquatic ecosystems.” Hovel referred to Iceland as being particularly relevant to Maine, as it has some shared North-Atlantic ecology. 

    Hovel still felt a desire to lead the trip to Iceland, despite what she described as “considerable uncertainty over the status of travel courses right now.” Hovel said, “I do research in the Canadian Arctic, and wish to give students a first-hand experience with Arctic/subArctic ecosystems.” 

    “Being able to experience glaciers, and the brand-new ecosystems that emerge as glaciers recede, is very striking,” Hovel said. “For students, it cements the principles of geology and ecology, and gives them a chance to practice the skills of observation and the scientific process.” Other travel courses give the students a similar learning environment depending on the field, in which they can have real hands-on participation. 

    Another aspect to take into consideration is that borders to many countries are closing, including the Spain border, which would prevent many of these travel courses, regardless of the University’s decision.