Note to readers: At the time of the interview, the ERAU campus was still operating in a limited capacity. On Mar. 29, the whole campus, with very strict exceptions, was closed to students and staff.
The COVID-19 virus, commonly known as the Novel Coronavirus, has negatively impacted many people. To try to stop the spread, the government ordered schools to transfer in-person classes to an online format and close campuses to everybody except for essential workers who were needed to take care of the students who stayed on campus. Consequently, on Mar. 12th, ERAU officially announced that classes would be moving to an online format. The school also encouraged students who were off-campus for spring break to not return to the campus and only come back to pick up their belongings. However, some students, for various reasons, stayed on campus as these changes occurred.
One of these students was freshman Rayna Gallegos, an Aeronautical Engineering major – Astro track. She originally chose this school because “it was an exceptional school, and it wasn’t terribly large.” Gallegos chose to stay on campus because she thought that she would not be able to study back home due to various distractions, and the time difference between Prescott and her home state of Hawaii.
As part of the preventive measures put in place to stop the spread of coronavirus, ERAU started doing health checks for all students still on campus as well as students that came to pick up their possessions. The health checks consisted of first filling out a questionnaire about places students visited during spring break and then a daily temperature check to make sure students did not have a fever, the most common symptom of COVID-19. Gallegos spoke about these changes, saying that the school was “doing a fantastic job of keeping up with everybody, making sure everybody has what they need.” She said that the health checks, although annoying, were “certainly not useless, and they’re important.”
The atmosphere on campus through all this seemed to be rather skeptical and indifferent, at least among the students. When coronavirus first became a wide-spread news story back in January and February, the virus was simply a running joke among the students, a thing to make fun of over breakfast. Many students had bigger worries than a virus that seemed so far from Prescott, such as physics tests and housing accommodations for next semester. According to Gallegos, this mentality really hadn’t altered, even with all the changes occurring on the campus:
“… what they are doing on campus is definitely good, but a lot of people on campus think that it is a bunch of nonsense and don’t necessarily like it.”
Gallegos herself seemed to be doing fine. She said that she was trusting in her faith to get her through this. In the meantime, she was focusing on her studies and spent her spare time catching up with her friends and family through the phone and other electronic means. If she did meet with people in-person, even her roommate, she practiced social distancing. She said that this experience will “be something I tell my kids and grandkids … it’s not going to be something that is going to disappear from my memory.”
Update: Even though Gallegos was planning to finish her semester on campus, due to state mandates and the closing of the campus, she was forced to move out of her dorm room, like most of the students who were still on campus. She is currently back home in Hawaii.