University of Pikeville extends quarantine into October

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Published: Sep. 21, 2020 at 9:51 PM EDT
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PIKE COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Updated 9-23-2020: The University of Pikeville announced Wednesday that based on a recommendation from the Pike County Health Department, the university will extend the Level Four guidance and continue virtual learning.

Students will not go back to in-person learning or partake in athletic activities until Monday, October 12.

“We have said all along we will lean on experts for guidance,” said UPIKE President Burton Webb, Ph.D. “This additional time will allow our campus to reduce our active cases and continue to keep our campus and community safe.”

Updated 9-22-2020:

The University of Pikeville continued its 72-hour quarantine Monday, keeping students in their residential spaces in order to clean the campus as the active COVID-19 cases climb into the double digits.

With at least 15 active cases confirmed, the university went into level four of its COVID-19 plan and is working with the Pike County Health Department to contact trace.

“We knew that is we decided to come back for face-to-face classes in the fall that we would need to have a pretty extensive plan that allowed us to do that,” said UPIKE President Dr. Burton Webb.

During the quarantine, the university is also cleaning the campus. Webb said since students are still able to leave their rooms to get food, he does not consider this a lockdown.

“The University of Pikeville is committed to making sure that we can provide the best possible education for our students in an environment that is as safe as it can possibly be for our students, our faculty, and staff. And we’re trying to do that in a way that provides safety for our community as well," Dr. Webb said. “And in an era of COVID, we can’t guarantee perfect safety. No one can do that. This virus is out, it’s in the community; it’s around the world and it is creating problems. But we’ll do everything possible to limit those infections to the lowest possible number that we can.”

Dr. Webb said the goal is to get information and decide how to best move forward with educational plans. While the legwork is being done, students say they are glad the university acted to keep them safe, but they are still not sure what to expect.

”I feel pretty safe. But I also think, at the same time, more could be done to inform the students about what is going on," said Madison Daniels, an international student from Australia.

Daniels said, even with the confusion, her parents are relieved to know that the university had a plan in place in the event that the virus was to spread on campus.

“They’re worrying a lot about me right now. And it makes them feel a little bit better, knowing that the school is taking these measures,” she said.

For many, going home is not an option.

“As an international student, it’s not like if they close I can go home," said Andrea Hurtado, whose family lives in Colombia. “So, I hope they keep it in-person. But I just hope they do what’s best for everyone.”

Hurtado and Daniels, roommates at UPIKE, said they hope this will open the eyes of students who may not have been taking the virus seriously, so they will begin to follow safety protocols. They worry about what will happen if the campus reverts to online only courses this fall.

According to Dr. Webb, the university has worked with international students and other students with circumstances that make “going home” not an option. He said it will continue to be a priority, whether learning is online, hybrid, or in-person, because “it’s the right thing to do," but he hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“There are all these layers to the decision-making process,” he said. “Our goal is to remain open. Our goal is to go back to normal functioning on Friday. But we’ll just have to see what happens in the next three days.”

He said once a list of possibly infected names is complete, the university will have to decide how those numbers fit with the capacity of the available quarantine housing on campus.

Public Health Director Tammy Riley said the Pike County Health Department is dedicated to helping the university however it can.

“What that means, from public health’s understanding, is that there’s an ongoing process where they’re working with us very closely with the tracing to establish who needs to be quarantined based on the positive cases. And whether classes- the learning environment- is online versus in person."

Riley said there is a unique partnership with the university that allows the health department to better understand where and who is most impacted by the virus.

Original Story 9-21-2020:

The University of Pikeville is in a 72-hour quarantine due to concerns with the spread COVID-19.

Monday the university sent an email to its students, informing them that they must stay in their rooms, unless getting food, for the next 72-hours and all classes will move online.

“We are moving to Level 4 in our plan, which has a variety or restrictions that are designed to give us time to work with the Pike County Health Department to finish contact tracing and make sure we clean adequately.” UPIKE President Burton Webb, Ph.D. told WYMT.

The level classification means there is at least one confirmed case on campus. According to the school’s online tracker, the campus had 15 active cases Monday and has seen 36 since July 1.

According to the plan on the UPIKE website, “Level four will remain in place until the Pike County Health Department can contact trace and test. People who are infected will be isolated and their contacts quarantined.”

This comes after Pike County Health Department announced the county has seen more than 400 cases of COVID-19.

“We are working closely with UPIKE on all ongoing cases,” said Public Health Director Tammy Riley. “Their plan, from the beginning, was to go to level 4 whenever they had an active breakout on campus. They are sticking to their plan.”

According to that plan, UPIKE’s goal with level four is to isolate the infections and adequately clean and disinfect any possibly contaminated area and return to a lower level in a safe manner.

In a statement Tuesday, Dr. Webb said “UPIKE’s guidelines were created with this scenario in mind. We have been preparing for this moment since we knew we were welcoming students back to campus this fall. UPIKE is working with all the proper state and local officials to ensure the safety of our campus and our community, and we will continue to lead with the health and safety of others as our guide.”

More information about UPIKE’s plan can be found here.

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