Campus administrators prepare for the possibility of a coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak by introducing guidelines for self-quarantine and canceling all education abroad programs for spring and summer.
As of March 9, nine Texas State students and one professor are in self-quarantine. There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Hays County.
Faculty, staff and students returning from countries assigned Centers for Disease Control travel warning levels 2 or 3 are required to self-quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus. Currently, countries with a level 3 travel health notice include China, Iran, South Korea and Italy, while Japan is level 2. The 10 quarantined individuals returned from Italy, South Korea, Japan and Germany.
Director of the Student Health Center Dr. Emilio Carranco said the 14-day isolation period is important due to health professionals’ knowledge of the COVID-19 incubation period and tendency to initially exhibit no symptoms.
“Researchers know that the incubation period for coronavirus is two to 14 days, so it’s very important that people either self-monitor or self-isolate for that 14-day period to make sure that they are beyond the incubation period,” Carranco said.
Texas State’s newly implemented coronavirus information page states it is also required for students with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 infection and mild to moderate illnesses to self-isolate at their homes to protect the public.
The university announced March 6 the cancellation of all education abroad programs for spring break and summer 2020. This is the latest of Texas State’s enactments to prevent an outbreak of COVID-19.
Director for International Affairs Rosario Davis said the Education Abroad Office is prioritizing senior students receiving the credits they need from the canceled abroad trips.
“We asked graduating seniors to immediately speak with their advisers,” Davis said. “Advisers will be looking into how we can make sure that the credits they need are met. It’s definitely a high priority concern that we’re working on.”
Davis reported that there are approximately 25 exchange students currently abroad in a variety of locations.
Despite COVID-19’s spread in Central Texas, no cases of the virus in Hays County have been confirmed. In a March 5 press release, Hays County Local Health Department Epidemiologist Eric Schneider stated: “No cases of COVID-19 have been confirmed in Hays County, and only a few individuals who believe they may have been exposed to a confirmed case are in self-quarantine and are being monitored as a precaution to protect our community.”
As of March 9, there is no community spread in the state, but Rice University became the first Texas university to issue cancellations of in-person classes in response to an employee testing positive for COVID-19. Rice’s in-person classes and undergrad teaching labs are temporarily cancelled for the week of March 9-13, although the university’s official statement said: “Rice is preparing for the possibility of delivering the majority of its classes remotely if that should prove necessary.”
In the case of a COVID-19 outbreak on campus, changes to class schedule and campus procedures are possible, according to Carranco. The extent of these potential changes have not been publicly communicated as of March 9.
An email to Texas State faculty from Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Gene Bourgeois recommended preparations for potentially transitioning in-person classes to an online program. The email states: “Recent events related to COVID-19 have many departments and faculty discussing strategies for the continuity of teaching in the event that circumstances temporarily disrupt our ability to deliver face-to-face instruction.”
Bourgeois advocated for faculty to prepare for such circumstances even if the university does not need to immediately use the plans. A “30-day contingency for teaching remotely” was recommended.
Carranco said the university keeping COVID-19 off campus is dependent on the community’s cooperation and responsibility.
“It is very important that we all be responsible members of our Bobcat community, because if we don’t follow the guidance that’s been shared with us about, you know, staying away if you’re sick and making sure that you self isolate… if you don’t do those things, then no matter how much we try to do at the university level, we won’t be able to keep the virus out of our campus,” Carranco said.
Individuals concerned they may have been exposed to COVID-19 are encouraged to contact their healthcare provider or the Hays County Local Health Department at 512.393.5520. For updates on COVID-19 in the area, visit the Texas State official coronavirus web page: https://www.healthcenter.txstate.edu/coronavirus.html.
News Editor Chase Rogers contributed to this article.