UPDATED: 7:34 p.m. MARCH 6, 2020 – adds information from a statement from the university acting president.
UPDATED 5:30 p.m., MARCH 6, 2020 – adds information from 5 p.m. press conference.
Scott Young, News Editor and Kaitlin Fleming, Editor in Chief
Two students at Jacksonville State University have come into contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19, according to an email sent by acting JSU President Don Killingsworth’s office early Friday morning.
In the email to students and staff, Killingsworth explains that the students have shown no symptoms of the virus but that they did attend classes after the exposure. He added that the students are currently not on campus.
“We are working proactively with the Alabama Department of Public Health to protect our campus and community and taking necessary precautions,” said Killingsworth. “If the situation changes, we will notify [the] campus.”
Friday afternoon, the university held a brief press conference and addressed some concerns, giving little information about the incident.
“This morning we received information from one of our students, she is also a worker in northwest Georgia, at a hospital there, and the information that she gave us was that she had been exposed to a coronavirus case patient at the hospital, over the weekend,” said Jeff Ryan, professor of emergency management at JSU, during a late afternoon press conference Friday.
The other student exposed to the virus worked at the same hospital and came in to contact with the same patient on the same day – but according to Ryan, the students had minimal contact with the patient in the emergency room at that hospital.
The students live in northwest Georgia and are under a self-quarantine in their own homes for 14 days.
“They are not infected with coronavirus, so that’s good news for sure,” said Ryan.
When asked at the press conference if the students had been tested for COVID-19, Ryan replied “Negative.”
“It’s not appropriate for them to be tested. They are not symptomatic. They are at home. They are fine. I’ve spoken with one of those students as well as their supervisor at the hospital. What I can tell you is they are absolutely not symptomatic. It would not be appropriate to do any tests on them because they have no symptoms.”
Ryan went on to say that the supervisor for the students has recommended a 14 day, self-quarantine, that began yesterday.
As far as the classes the students attended after they were exposed, Ryan said the other students in that class were informed of the situation by the dean of that school.
In a statement put out on the university’s website before 6 p.m. on Friday, March 6, Killingsworth mapped out where the students had been on campus after their contact with the infected person in Georgia.
“They did attend classes this week. One student attended classes in the Houston Cole Library, 11th floor, for one day, and the other student attended classes for three days in Ayers Hall, room 12; Stone Center, room 232, 334; and Martin Hall, rooms 130, 327. Faculty and students in those classes have been notified. Building Services has begun extensive cleaning of those classrooms, which will be completed prior to Monday classes.”
Currently, no cases of the virus have been confirmed in Alabama while 250 cases total have been reported in the United States.
Last month, the university cancelled all university-sponsored international travel amid the ongoing spread of COVID-19, but during the Friday afternoon press conference the university said travel for student health workers wouldn’t change and that JSU will continue with business as usual but will make changes as it is necessary.
To prevent illness, the CDC advises people to avoid close contact with those who are sick, stay home when you are sick and wash your hands regularly. For more information about COVID-19, visit http://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/.
This story will be updated as more information comes in.