E&H COVID-19 Task Force Delivers Campus Update


Reginelle Anderson

The novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19, viewed on a molecular level; photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s image library.

On Tuesday, October 20th, Emory & Henry College held required COVID testing for all students and faculty on campus. Of the 616 tested, 34 were found to be positive for the virus. Jennifer Pearce, Vice President for Enrollment Management and External Affairs at E&H, explains what is being done to prevent a similar situation from occurring in the future.

With numbers on the rise, Pearce is aware that these cases will likely not be the last of the positive cases on campus, and have plans in place for a future outbreak.

“We understand, like most colleges, we will be seeing starts and stops to our daily operations to ensure utmost safety is taking place on campus. We have solid plans and operations in place to ensure the safest environment for our campus community. We will continue to enforce the following of our COVID-19 guidelines for faculty, staff and students, and see more testing as they become available,” she said.

As for the spring semester, Pearce said that the task force would continue to monitor the situation, and shared that there have already been some schedule changes made.

“There will be no Spring Break but there will be a couple days off for the Easter holiday. The task force will determine the amount of students that can return to campus safely and their housing,” she said.

Although student athletes had been recently invited back to campus soon before the mandatory COVID tests were taken, Pearce says the cases can’t be linked to one specific group of students or faculty.

“There are no cases specifically attributed to any particular group at this time,” she said. “It appears individuals are being exposed to COVID from various sources or locations within the general population.”

Pearce explained that along with following NCAA and ODAC guidelines, the college also took more precautions after finding out about the 34 positive cases.

“During the time we switched to remote learning, we worked with Mount Rogers’ Health Department to perform contact tracing and to properly quarantine and isolate those who tested positive and those who might have been in contact with them. We also deep cleaned larger common space areas,” she said.

E&H isn’t the only place that has been dealing with an uptick in cases. In fact, Pearce reiterated that the entire region has been seeing a rise in COVID cases.

“Cases of COVID-19 in our region continue to rise, and our hospital system is being overwhelmed,” she said. “Both the governors of Virginia and Tennessee are reviewing the increasing cases in SWVA to determine a more unified approach toward mask wearing.”
Pearce says that the task force is working very hard to prevent any other outbreaks, but that they can’t ensure the campus is safe without the help of the students and community members working to stop the spread as well.

“Our faculty and staff have worked hard to move classes and office hours online to allow the option of remote learning and work to lessen the spread. We have our campus bubble to protect to resume some normalcy in the future,” she said. “It’s really important that each individual does their part to remain safe and protect the safety of others.”

This includes activities off campus, and Pearce urged everyone to follow the regulations that have been put in place everywhere they go.

“It’s important that students hold themselves accountable as well as their peers. What happens off campus can impact what happens on campus,” she said. “We must all do our part to adhere to guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus including washing hands, wearing masks, social distancing and avoiding large crowds and gatherings.”

Additionally, Pearce says that she and the task force recognize that this has been a stressful time for students, and thanked them all for cooperating during this unprecedented time.

“We are appreciative of the students’ patience and understanding as to how serious the virus is and some of the inconveniences they’ve had to endure fall semester but know that we will get through this together,” she said.

For current COVID-19 case numbers at Emory & Henry College, along with other information, please visit the college’s COVID-19 dashboard: https://www.ehc.edu/covid19/dashboard/