Checking In With COVID-19

Jun 30, 2020
John Wark

It has been a couple of weeks since we checked in with our old friend COVID-19 to see if there are any updates in its world. And there are a few new things to talk about in pandemic land. 

The big news we’re all paying attention to is that the number of new cases in Nashville and Tennessee are on the rise. As a consequence of the uptick in cases Nashville has decreed that wearing masks in public is now mandatory starting this week (and not wearing a mask will be punishable as a class C misdemeanor starting on July 3). There are lots of caveats and carve-outs in the rules, but basically Nashville is saying “wear a mask”. You can find more details of the rules here. Curiously, at least to me anyway, Nashville is staying in phase 3 of it’s reopening plan, even with the uptick in cases and with mandatory mask wearing. We’ll see if that continues to be the case when the Mayor next looks at the reopening timeline. 

Also, the State of Tennessee has extended the existing state of emergency until August 29 (it was to expire at the end of June). So even outside Davidson County, all of the precautions, including wearing masks, staying home as much as possible, social distancing, etc. are still very much in place. While the numbers of deaths due to COVID-19 don’t seem to be rising, we’re still very much in the middle of the pandemic with no finish line in sight. 

Here at NSS we continued our periodic surveys of staff and students to assess their readiness to possibly return to in-person classes or group activities. With students, we see a continuation of the attitudes we have seen for the last 2 or 3 months but with some minor shifting at the margins. Depending upon the question asked, it’s still around 60 to 65 percent of students somewhere between “nervous but willing” and “eager” to get back either to full-time classroom activities or to small groups in-person. The other roughly ⅓ of students are definitely in the “it’s too early”, “I’m not ready”, or “I can’t” camps. And our staff is, once again, even less enthused about returning to in-person instruction than our students. 

All things considered, when looking at the disease data and the current trend lines, it’s hard to see us making any big changes to how we are currently operating. We have been onboarding classes, teaching classes and helping students acquire the skills they need to start careers in software development, data analytics/data science, and IT infrastructure, and supporting our graduates in their job searches nonstop since the lockdown in March. We’ve been doing it remote and online and it has been working, in most cases quite well. It’s not ideal for all students, no doubt. It’s not what we prefer, absolutely. But it’s helping to keep our students and staff safe and healthy and that has to be the priority. The fact that we can keep everyone safe and do everything else we do, and do it well, argues for staying on this track for the time being. So, we will. 

The next time we’ll be considering our commitment to staying online and evaluating a potential timeline for returning to in-person classes in some form will be in mid-July. We have a regular quarterly Board of Directors meeting in mid-month and we’ll be reviewing our plans for the second half of the year with the board at that time. Until then, I don’t expect any changes to our current public commitment to being online through at least Labor Day, so look for our next update sometime around the 20th of July.