TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTHI) - Some colleges around the Wabash Valley have announced tentative plans to return to campus in the fall. With four colleges in Terre Haute, some of you have asked if our city will be prepared to welcome back thousands of kids come August.
Vigo County Health Commissioner Dr. Darren Brucken says welcoming back college kids has its own special set of challenges. He spoke about what the Vigo County Health Department has done to prepare for an influx of students come fall and their process in working with colleges.
“Everything is going back to normal at some point,” Brucken said, “It’s just a question of how quickly can we get there and how safely can we get there.”
Dr. Brucken says they have been in contact with all levels of education facilities in Terre Haute and Vigo County—from elementary to college. They have a weekly joint information center call that everybody participates in.
Brucken says it’s each individual college’s responsibility to come up with a plan, but they have been very interactive with the Vigo County Health Department. Brucken believes the city and the county will be ready to welcome students back safely.
“It’s literally going to fall on every single person in the community to figure out, ‘how can I be doing my part to remain safe and to continue to recognize social distancing, continue to wear a mask, and continue to help the overall effort.’ I think we will be ready,” Brucken explained, “The city and county—this area in general— will be ready, I believe, because we are going to have a few months to figure out how do we reopen safely and what does this look like.”
Dr. Brucken says, though, 20,000-25,000 kids coming to our area does present some challenges.
News 10 asked Brucken if hospitals are ready for the influx of people coming to our area and if this presents a higher risk for the possible second wave when the fall comes.
He says not every college kid is perfectly healthy. That’s why even though he believes everyone will come back to campuses,
it’s vitally important to continue socially distancing and practicing social responsibility. If everyone does their part, we can help keep the elderly, the most vulnerable population, as safe as possible.
“As you move around in the community, you put more people in, and you intermingle more, we should see—were likely going to see—a continued spread of the virus in the community,” Dr. Brucken concluded, “The most vulnerable of our population—those are the ones that were still really focusing on. From a healthcare delivery standpoint, those are the folks we have to try to keep out of the hospital.”
Dr. Brucken says they’ve also been in contact with athletic departments. The NCAA has pushed down recommendations that other colleges in our area are looking to for guidance to get sports going again. Overall, Brucken says the collaboration between the health department and different colleges has been great and he expects to see students back in the fall.