In the wake of the first confirmed COVID-19 case among Indiana University of Pennsylvania students, the school’s vice president for student affairs is asking the campus community to take “a few steps farther” its commitment to “the health and safety of the IUP family.”
In an email obtained by the Gazette, Dr. Thomas C. Segar thanked the student body “for following the social distancing and face covering guidelines in place for campus during the first week of classes,” adding, “your commitment to the health and safety of the IUP family makes me very proud to be a Crimson Hawk.”
He is asking students to continue the practice of masking and social distancing when they are off campus, too.
“We cannot put our students and our community at risk,” Segar wrote. “If the cases of coronavirus escalate in the Indiana community and in Indiana County, we may be forced to change how IUP continues this semester.”
Under IUP’s hybrid fall learning plan, announced Aug. 3, as many as two-thirds of the student body is staying home and using online technology to access their courses.
IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll said face-to-face instruction is being provided for students in academic programs that require them to be on campus, such as those offered by the Academy of Culinary Arts and the Criminal Justice Training Center.
Also, Driscoll wrote, those to return to campus include most students in graduate programs, most international students who are in the United States and students with special circumstances.
Segar was not available for further comment about his email.
Another email sent out as an emergency measure to the campus community Wednesday evening said the student “is self-isolating and is following the required response protocol as recommended by health care professionals treating this individual.” It said the student, not otherwise identified, “has been self-isolating for several days and has not been physically present in any classes.”
According to a “COVID-19 Dashboard” on IUP’s website, there are 169 isolation beds available on campus.
“I do not know of notifications of any additional positive cases,” said IUP Executive Director of Media Relations Michelle Fryling.
In his Thursday email, Segar cited state guidelines that prohibit indoor gatherings of 25 or more and outdoor gatherings of 250 or more.
“Even if you are outside, if you are in a crowd and cannot be socially distant, you must wear a face covering,” Segar wrote. “Remember, social distancing means being at least six feet away from others.”
“Remember, you may not feel ill, but you could become infected and infect others — people you live and work with here, or your family and friends when you go home for a visit,” Segar wrote. “Other universities have faced serious consequences when students did not follow these rules.”
All of this coincides with reports out of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania that 90 people tested positive for the coronavirus. The Patriot-News in Harrisburg quoted Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education officials as saying all of those infected are students, except for one employee. The campus has since moved to strictly online learning.
Bloomsburg has more than 8,500 students, with about 2,200 living on campus.
At IUP, Segar cited transitions to remote learning after the first week of classes at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame.
In both cases, he said, “this was a result of off-campus parties with students not following health and safety guidelines.”
On Friday, Notre Dame President John Jenkins told students at the South Bend, Ind., university that they would gradually return to in-person classes beginning Wednesday.