After consulting with the Cabell-Huntington Health Department and the Marshall Health chief medical officer, Marshall University President Jerome Gilbert announced the cancellation of the 2020 commencement ceremony. It seems that President Gilbert has joined in the practice of “moving the goal posts” for reasons still not understood. In his letter, he stated: “When we announced the tentative ceremony more than two months ago, it was conditional on coronavirus infection levels remaining relatively low. Unfortunately, West Virginia and Cabell County have experienced a steady and significant increase in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks.”
First, the condition of coronavirus infection levels remaining relatively low has been met. According to the John Hopkins Corona Virus Resource Center, West Virginia is one of 19 states that are in accordance with the WHO testing criteria (less than 5% for 14 days). Second, the Hopkins Resource states West Virginia’s positive rate has been in decline over the past two weeks (3.8% to 3.5%). According to the Cabell County Health Department, merely 202 of the 91,000-plus residents of Cabell County have contracted the virus (0.22%) since we began closures 127 days ago. Last, West Virginia only trails Wyoming and Montana in death rate in the continental US (John Hopkins).
For a state consistently ridiculed for its poor health and education, we should be celebrating our achievements. Policy decisions like these only bring our state back to where the rest of the country believes we should be. West Virginia “leaders” in education, health care, and government seem to want a problem that simply is not there.
Marshall leadership needs to stop insisting this crisis pertains to them. Mayor Steve Williams needs to push Marshall University to make good on its cushioned status. And Gov. Jim Justice needs to stop issuing mandates and point to Marshall’s graduating class as a beacon. Have the ceremony and stop sabotaging our state!