By Chanelle Chandler
As it marks its return to in-person classes, Hampton University, a prominent historically Black college known colloquially as “Home by the Sea,” is setting an example of how to navigate the coronavirus pandemic.
The school, which is located in Hampton, Va., has required that students be fully vaccinated for COVID-19, mandated masks in the classroom and taken efforts to curb the spread of the virus at large gatherings.
But despite these measures, the college is something of an island, smack in the middle of a raging COVID ocean. In recent weeks, the city of Hampton has seen a dramatic spike in cases of COVID-19, thanks to the spread of the Delta variant. In August alone, health officials reported 1,533 new cases there, in a city whose population is roughly 135,000.
One Hampton University freshman told Yahoo News that she was horrified when she left the campus bubble to venture out locally.
“Going to the local Waffle House in Hampton, there was this woman who looked visibly sick — red eyes, pale skin, with no mask — serving us food. But in Hampton University’s Cafe, they won’t even serve you if you don’t have your mask on.” The freshman also recalled that a cafe staff member had once pulled her aside and told her to “Please, please take care of yourself, because cases are rising in the city.”
While 98 percent of Hampton students have been fully inoculated against COVID-19, the percentage of the population is only 43 percent for the city where it resides.
Students moved back into the college on Aug. 20, setting foot on a campus that had effectively been shuttered for 17 months, thanks to the pandemic. Before dorm check-in, they were ushered to a designated COVID-19 testing site before being allowed to unpack their cars. Temperature checks were also required for entry into many campus buildings.