Dear Red Wolves:
I learned Wednesday night that seven Arkansas State student-athletes across three sports have tested positive for coronavirus. As we have discussed before, this is a day that we knew would come, not just at A-State, but for colleges and universities across America. Indeed, several universities have reported positive tests for employees and students during the past few days. To prepare for this inevitability, we have been developing COVID-19 mitigation procedures since we first became aware of the possibility of coronavirus appearing in our community in March. These protocols were developed in consultation with our local health officials, federal/state guidelines, and best practices that have been shared by our peer institutions across the country.
All seven students continue to be asymptomatic as of this writing. Those who are living off-campus will self-isolate there or at home for 14 days. Those who are living on-campus will self-isolate in their residence hall (or at home) for 14 days. We are conducting contact tracing, and anyone who has been exposed to these students will be required to quarantine for 14 days. Because of federal privacy laws, we will not be releasing any additional information on any student who is in isolation or quarantine.
There are important takeaways from this news. First, as Governor Hutchinson said when he visited Jonesboro last week, young people are not immune to COVID-19. Second, COVID-19 is here in our county, and we must all continue to practice strong hygiene habits, wearing face coverings, and physical distancing. Third, even if we do not feel sick, we may still be infected with COVID-19. Finally, the inevitability of COVID-19 infection by members of our campus community highlights the importance of our advanced preparation and our plans for Fall 2020.
It is useful to reiterate a key point about face coverings. We are providing all students and employees a mask to wear on campus when they are not able to easily social distance. I know that it is uncomfortable and that it takes some getting used to wearing. But I do not wear a mask because I think that you are sick and it will protect me. I also do not wear a mask because I am trying to make a political statement. I only wear a mask because I know that even though I feel perfectly fine, I might have COVID-19. If I am infected and I am not wearing a mask, I could make you sick when we interact. While some might think that wearing a mask is not useful, I would rather not take a chance with your life.
We have established face covering protocols for anyone who is on our campus, and it is my expectation that all will do their best to keep each other safe by following our procedures. The university will remain open just as we have done when a staff member tested positive for COVID-19 in April. As a reminder, important information related to Arkansas State’s COVID-19 response and frequently asked questions related to the coronavirus pandemic are located on the university’s main website home page and at AState.edu/Coronavirus. We use this site to keep our campus community updated on everything related to A-State’s COVID-19 response. Please remember that if you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me via email or you can always go directly to Pack Support.