Campus COVID-19 Update


Kylie McGovern, Editor  

La Salle University student wearing a mask on campus

On Jan. 5, La Salle University released an update on COVID-19 and the spring semester. This notice included information about a booster requirement, updating vaccine information, testing, masking and student programming. Regarding the vaccine, La Salle University is requiring all members of the campus community receive a COVID-19 vaccine booster dose within 30 days of eligibility to minimize the number of community members who may become infected or need to quarantine because of exposure. Those who are vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19 will have more flexibility with quarantine and isolation protocols per newest CDC guidance. Some members of the La Salle community already have an approved exemption on file with the University and will continue to be exempt, but unvaccinated individuals must either double-mask or wear a KN95 mask while indoors per The Philadelphia Department of Public Health. La Salle University has created a deadline and community members must receive a COVID-19 booster shot and submit verification to the University by Tuesday, Feb. 15.

In addition, Once a member of the La Salle community has received the COVID-19 vaccine and/or booster, students and employees must update their vaccination records on file with the University. In addition, for non-residential students and employees, entry testing is available and strongly encouraged. Testing is available at no expense and without an appointment. In addition to residential student entry testing, The Treetops Café testing center has expanded the hours of operation. 

In addition, unvaccinated individuals are required to complete weekly testing. Students who do not comply with testing requirements will face disciplinary action through Student Conduct. Failure to comply with one test will result in a temporary restriction to campus. Failure to comply with two or more tests will result in suspension. Faculty or staff who do not comply with testing requirements will face disciplinary action through HR with action up to termination. However, there was a 95% vaccination rate as of Dec. 15, so only a small percentage of the community needs to adhere to this testing. 

Furthermore, masks continue to be a requirement in all indoor settings on La Salle’s campus. Since the omicron variant is more transmissible than previous variants, La Salle University recommends surgical-grade masks and KN95 masks. The University has a supply of surgical, N95, KN95, and University-branded cloth masks that are available to students and employees. Limited quantities of each supply can be obtained at the on-campus testing center at Treetops Café as well as in each residence hall security desk reception area and Union Information Desk. 

As for in-person extracurricular activities, student Organization Programs and Meetings will need to be virtual through the end of February. Student organizations are encouraged to wait on hosting in-person events until after February, after a review of the institutional positivity rate has been conducted. However, the university has identified some Office-led events to host in-person to provide some limited safe interaction, and student organizations will be permitted to table in the Student Union Lobby. Overall, with the week of in-person classes, La Salle is operating to best facilitate in-person learning while mitigating the risks of COVID-19. 

A year in retail


James LeVan, Staff

Five years ago, a week before “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” arrived in theaters, I had taken a job in a local grocery store pushing carts in the evening. It was during the holiday season, a time when grocery stores and other retail businesses hired anyone with a pulse. Pushing carts wasn’t a bad gig overall. When the weather was warm and they were constructing the overpass near my work, I loved watching the sunset in the parking lot and listening to the banging of metal in the night air. The work was simple and pleasant. Since then, I have been a cashier, janitor, seafood rep (that lasted a week) and now a floater (a fancier term for stock boy). Being a floater has never been an easy job. It is not just stocking cans of corn on the shelf with a bunch of teenagers and college students. Retirees, teenagers, other college students, people looking for a second chance, parents even college graduates (a coworker who worked overnight stocking shelves had a degree in Business from Temple) work in retail. It has become a major source of employment for the educated and the uneducated, the skilled and the unskilled alike. Regardless of race or creed, what unites us is our frustration for our work and since the pandemic that frustration has only exasperated.

When the pandemic first hit a year ago, our shelves were quickly depleted the weekend Pennsylvania began to shut down. Our freezers became barren, most if not all of our meats were sold, and, of course, we ran out of toilet paper. By the end of the day Saturday of the first weekend of the pandemic, all we really had were Little Debbie products and some sparkling cider left over from Christmas 2019 (that stuff sells poorly, even in the middle of a pandemic). It is hard to believe it has been a year since COVID-19 first hit — those months of March to maybe June of 2020 feel both distant and recent to me. I tried keeping a log back in April, but many of my notes were mundane. I did not record all that happened at work and when I was not working, I was at home puttering around my house. The supply chain did not collapse, but it was under pressure that had not been seen before in the recent history of the United States. 

Courtesy of James LeVan

Pictured above is a frozen food aisle in early April 2020.

It was hard telling people who were desperate for toilet paper that we did not have any. I tried directing them to the nearest small corner store or family-owned chain (in the beginning they maintained a better supply than we did). When people would ask me when we would get more stuff in, I would shrug my shoulders and tell them I did not want to lie to them. Some people would accuse us of hoarding supplies and truth be told, we were not. Some coworkers bought a pack of toilet paper together and divided the rolls amongst themselves. For me, my parents had to drive out to the rural parts of PA to find ground beef and toilet paper. We had plenty of Lysol spray and wipes left over from when I had the flu a month earlier (an odd stroke of luck when I think about it). At the beginning of the pandemic, a coworker gave me a can of Lysol and I felt bad taking it, so I took it back to the shelf and explained that we had plenty of it at home, and it felt like I was hoarding. A woman quickly came and picked it up from me and said thank you.

In normal times, delivery trucks come in the early evening, and the overnight crew comes in around 8 p.m. to break it down. However, during the summer, trucks became infrequent. I remember one time I had to come in early (5 a.m.) to help overnight unload a truck that had gotten there an hour earlier. Sometimes we would not get a truck for a day or so and then multiple loads in one day. It really depended on the luck of the draw that day. One surprising phenomenon was that at one point, just so we had stuff, we got stacks of toilet paper and flour that were originally meant for hotels. But since no one was travelling, it made more sense for us to stock shelves with it. Things are semi-stable now, though we still end up running short on supplies depending on what they are.

On social media and television, we were praised for continuing to come into work. That we were in a way heroes for making sure communities had food and supplies. The media certainly thought we were awesome, and we had some customers thank us for what we were doing. However, I do not think people realize just how bad it got on some days. The fear that your coworker sitting across from you had COVID in the breakroom, to customers who would lose control and act like a child having a tantrum in a toy store. One moment that stands out in my mind was the time me and my manager had to go over to our beer garden because an older white man was screaming at a co-worker and an African American customer. When we asked what was wrong, the old man started screaming at our manager claiming that a Black man was following him around the store (he was not, we checked the cameras). He spent 20 minutes screaming at us, telling us about how his wife left him in the store alone, that he thought we were discriminating against him because he was white and not questioning the Black man, he was accusing of following him, that he had PTSD and that if he did not yell, he would get violent. I honestly thought I was going to have to fight this guy who was twice my size at that moment and that I was going to end up on the news. The guy tired himself out and then proceeded to leave and went about our business.

We who work at stores like Acme, Giant, Walmart and Target have been through Hell this last year. We have gone home crying, scared and exhausted. I have broken down in tears personally three times this past year. Many of us did not choose to continue working during this pandemic because we were brave or had a sense of duty. We did it because we had bills to pay and mouths to feed. Our work was not a breeze to begin with and the pandemic only exacerbated our problems. Grocery stores face issues of sexual harassment, disrespect and abuse from the communities we feed. The latter is still being felt now as we struggle to get vaccines and the latest attempt for a minimum wage increase died with Senator Sinema’s obnoxious thumbs down. It is important to remember that behind that mask, the cashier that sounds like a robot reciting the “thank you for shopping with us,” the women in health and beauty care and the guys stocking the shelves are all human and we are so tired.

Do you smoke in grocery stores?


Alina Snopkowski, Editor

Fair warning: this article isn’t about smoking or grocery stores, at least not really. It’s about the rules and requirements that businesses have in place, and why being asked to wear a mask in certain places shouldn’t be a big issue.

For those of you who like charts and statistics, this site tracks, among other things, what percentage of the country’s population says they always wear a mask in public; here is the specific page for the state of Pennsylvania. In Delaware, where I am currently living and working, the last updated numbers show that a little over 80% of the people in the state say they always wear a mask in public. In the restaurant where I work, the vast majority of customers come in with their masks on or, if they forget, a simple “do you have a mask you can wear while you’re inside?” has them immediately scrambling in their pockets or purses to find their masks and put them on. When I’m working at the register up front, it’s my responsibility to make sure people are following the rules when they come in, and most customers are totally fine with it. A few months ago a man grumbled “are you serious? This is America” before reluctantly putting his mask on after I reminded him, but, for the most part, people are completely on top of the requirements.

And then here comes Paula (not her real name, of course, although I doubt anyone would be able to find her anyway). Paula calls and orders some food for takeout and I tell her it’ll be ready in about ten minutes. When she arrives, she’s not wearing her mask. We have signs on the windows but people forget. “Good morning,” I say, “do you have a mask you can wear while you’re in here?”

Paula flatly says “no.” Before I can say anything else, she launches into “it’s against the Constitution, so I’m not going to wear one. I don’t want to live in a communist country.”

I’ll be on record here and now saying I don’t particularly want to live in a communist country, either. But I don’t think asking someone to wear a mask while within a business that requires it is communism. The restaurant I work at didn’t invent these rules, but we have to follow them if we want to stay open. 99 percent of people understand this.

Back to Paula. She’s shoving her money at me and grabbing the plastic bag of her food off the front desk. “We appreciate you coming in but you have to wear a mask,” I say, probably a little meekly, because I was kind of rattled at the communism comment, “we have to follow these rules or we could get in trouble.”

“It’s not real, sweetheart,” she says, in the kind of tone that one might use to correct someone who said the moon is made of cheese, “wake up.”

And then she’s gone.

The whole interaction lasted barely a minute and the front desk is far over six feet away from any of the tables, so I doubt any customers even heard the conversation. But for the rest of the morning I was thinking about what else I should have said:

Do you smoke in grocery stores?

If there’s a sign on a store that says “no shoes, no shirt, no service,” do you walk in anyway in your bare feet and then get angry when they tell you to put some shoes on or leave? Or, more likely, do you not even bat an eye, because businesses having some level of requirements on what’s allowed (and not allowed) in their buildings is completely reasonable?

I don’t need to say that small businesses are struggling in this pandemic. We all know it. I also don’t need to say that these rules don’t necessarily come from us — usually a governor tells us what we have to do — but we’re required to follow them and enforce them in order to stay open. By patronizing a particular business, you pretty much agree to follow the rules while you’re on their premises. I don’t want to tell Paula not to come back, but the fact is she’s not allowed in if she refuses to wear her mask. I suppose it’s her right not to wear one, but it’s our responsibility not to let her in if she doesn’t. I, like most people, am looking forward to the day where we don’t have to wear masks anymore. But for the time being, this is the situation we have to deal with.

Signs like this one are on display in many restaurants in Delaware.

So, forgive me for the clickbait title for this article, but I want you to think about this mask situation not as ‘communism’ or some sort of infringement on personal freedoms but in this way — how different is it, really, from being told you must wear shoes in a particular store or that you can’t smoke in certain places? For the time being, “no mask, no service” has been added to these commonplace requirements. You’re allowed to spend your money and your time wherever you see fit, but if there’s a rule at a place you want to go to, you have to follow it. If you don’t want to, you can choose to go somewhere else. Small businesses are hurting enough — please don’t make it any more difficult by refusing to follow simple, clearly posted requirements.

And, believe it or not, Paula came back about a week later. She called again one morning, I recognized her name on the caller ID on the phone, and her order was identical to last time’s. I tell her ten minutes, give or take, and I wait at the front desk watching the parking lot for her car.

She pulls up and parks, then sits in her car for what seems like ten more minutes checking something on her phone. She isn’t wearing a mask yet. Okay, fine, she’s still in her car. She opens her door. Still no mask. Crosses the parking lot. Still no mask. I’m ready now — I’m prepared to tell her to go back outside, that she can give me her money out on the sidewalk and I’ll bring her food out to her there, but I can’t let her into the building.

And then, at the very last second, she pulls a mask up from around her neck. She gives me her money and takes her food and that’s that.

I don’t know why she changed her behavior, but I’m glad she did.

We won’t have to wear masks forever. One of my favorite websites at the moment is this one by Bloomberg, which estimates how long it’ll take to vaccinate 75 percent of the country’s population based on the current speed of vaccinations. Last I checked, they’re clocking it at about six months. That’s a while, but it’s certainly not forever.

Someday this will all be over, but until then, I ask you to please support your local small businesses in any way you can — and that includes wearing a mask.