BLOOMSBURG, Pa. — Students are returning to Bloomsburg University. Classes start next week.
Some worry those Bloomsburg University students may bring a spike in COVID-19 cases to the community.
"It's a concern to the people that we have been so low with our numbers. Now the students will come in, they are not registered as Columbia County, Bloomsburg residents. Their numbers won't show up, so we won't even know if COVID is found," said Leane Coladonato, who lives and owns a business in Bloomsburg.
University officials said they are doing their best to stress health and safety among the roughly 7,700 students.
About 25 percent of university classes are in person, more than 50 percent are online, and the rest are a mix of the two, according to school officials.
They are urging students to wear masks, setting aside more than 70 rooms for quarantining students with symptoms of COVID, and having a dedicated testing site on campus.
"We are limiting who they can interact with if they're in a residence hall, they have to stay in their pod, so to speak, and really limit who they are socially interacting with, and the events and activities that we will do will be scaled down, and all require masking and social distancing," said Diana Rogers-Adkinson, Bloomsburg University provost.
People who live and own businesses in town said this is a difficult situation. They welcome the business those students bring to the area but are worried about their own and their family's health, too.
"I know that our town relies in their business tremendously, tremendously. So it is a Catch-22. I mean, a lot of our businesses aren't even at full capacity," said Coladonato.
Bloomsburg police are also issuing warnings to students, urging them to wear masks in town, prohibiting off-campus gatherings of more than 25 people, and banning parties.
"Students can expect fines, and if they chose to be repeat offenders, they will be referred to the university code of conduct as well, there are expectations of being good citizens both on and off-campus," said Rogers-Adkinson.
University leaders said they are hopeful to get through this fall session safely.
They said about 500 students have opted to learn virtually this fall, meaning they will not have to set foot on campus at all.
The winter session will be virtual with all classes online.