JSU drops to 4 active COVID-19 cases, doesn’t commit to requiring masks after statewide order expires

(Left to right): Vice President of Student Affairs Terry Casey, Provost Christie Shelton, Chief of Program Operations Jeff Ryan and President Don Killingsworth pose for a photo at the university’s town hall event on Wednesday. (Ashley Phillips/The Chanticleer)(Left to right): Vice President of Student Affairs Terry Casey, Provost Christie Shelton, Chief of Program Operations Jeff Ryan and President Don Killingsworth pose for a photo at the university’s town hall event on Oct. 28. (Ashley Phillips/The Chanticleer)

Dacey Dunaway, Correspondent

Reports of active COVID-19 cases on the campus of Jacksonville State have dropped to a new low, with four active cases as of Tuesday, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.

The latest active case numbers are a notable contrast to numbers seen in the fall semester, when cases reached a peak of 219. 

“The number of active cases on our campus has declined greatly since the beginning of the fall semester,” said Jeff Ryan, JSU’s chief of program operations and COVID-19 task force head. “This is a very encouraging trend we hope will continue.”

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Since July 15, the state of Alabama has required individuals to wear a face covering when in public and in close contact with others. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced last Thursday that the mask mandate for Alabama would expire on April 9.

Asked whether or not the university would require masks after April 9, Ryan did not provide a direct response, explaining that “there are many factors for the COVID-19 Task Force to consider.”

“We will continually assess the situation and help the President and his Cabinet make the best decision for the health and safety of our campus community,” he said.

Ryan confirmed that the university is still awaiting its 10,100 doses of the COVID-19 vaccine from the Alabama Department of Public Health, or ADPH.

“We have been told by senior ADPH officials that we will get it,” said Ryan, “but, we haven’t been told when. When we do receive it, we are prepared to begin a mass vaccination clinic on campus.”

When the mass vaccination clinic becomes available, Ryan affirmed that JSU will follow guidelines set in place by the state’s vaccination prioritization plan. This plan has determined priority groups on the basis of individual risk.

A recent survey indicated that several hundred people in the JSU community have already received the vaccine, according to Ryan.

“We strongly encourage our students and employees to get the COVID-19 vaccine wherever and whenever they can get it,” said Ryan.

According to the Alabama Department of Public Health, 1,112,016 vaccines have been administered in Alabama, with 410,337 people completing the vaccine series. 

Multiple stores in Jacksonville and the surrounding area are offering vaccine appointments for eligible people, including CVS, Walgreens, Sam’s Club and Walmart.

In response to the drop in case numbers, the university also announced on Friday that it would decrease its COVID-19 response level to level one, or green. The new level permits in-person activities with no specific capacity limit for groups, allows alcohol at events and encourages virtual meetings for larger organizations.

“It is important that student organization leaders remain vigilant and take proactive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in our community,” said Joshua Robinson, JSU’s associate dean of students. “JSU reserves the right to move to precautionary level 2 or higher if cases on campus and/or in the community increase.”

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