COVID-19 cases going up on college campuses

Updated: Sep. 1, 2020 at 10:28 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - COVID-19 cases are increasing on college campuses across the country as students return to class.

Dr. Shane Speights, dean of the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine at Arkansas State University said the latest data at the end of last week showed over 750 campuses across the country had between 26,000 and 28,000 positive cases.

This is something that does not surprise him.

“I’ve said this many times before, the virus is just looking for the next person to jump do,” Dr. Speights said. “So when people come together in close congregate settings, the virus is going to spread more rapidly.”

He said that is why it is important for students and staff at the colleges to adhere to social distancing measures and the recommendation set out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Arkansas Department of Health along with the colleges.

As of Tuesday, Arkansas State University is reporting 56 positive cases with 10 being students on campus, 45 in students living off-campus and 1 vendor/contractor. The school notes these are just the cases that have been self-reported to the school.

Dr. Speights says NYIT-COM provides testing for students, faculty, and staff and they are also involved in the contact tracing.

When it comes to successfully finishing out the semester on campus, he says the way to ensure that is to follow the guidelines.

He said it is something where if you cheat on following the guidelines, you are not only hurting yourself but also the university as a whole.

“That gives the virus the chance to spread, and specifically in a younger population, the virus is going to spread more rapidly because those individuals don’t seem to have as many symptoms,” Dr. Speights said. “So they don’t seem to have symptoms as quickly so an individual can feel fine and spread the virus for several days or more not knowing it.”

One thing he did say was a good thing is that as a whole, Arkansas is doing much better than other states around us. When it comes to schools, he thinks A-State is doing better than other schools in the state.

If you look at the University of Arkansas, 222 active cases have been recorded there, according to the COVID-19 dashboard on their website.

“And I think that’s through diligent preparation and work on behalf of the administration,” Dr. Speights said. “We’ve obviously at NYIT working closely with him [A-State Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse] since the beginning of this and we’re happy to be a diligent partner with him [sic] through this.”

But he reiterated that it does boil down to the individual decisions made by individual students, faculty, and staff.

With students going to college, it may be the first taste of freedom for some students and Dr. Speights said this year’s freshmen class has a responsibility that others have not had.

“That is to be diligent in following social distancing recommendation and guidelines, because what they do off campus can affect what happens on campus,” Dr. Speights said.

Dr. Speights also said that people should not be surprised that cases will increase in the schools, county, and state.

“We do expect that,” Dr. Speights said. “All of the data is pointing to that, especially as we start to enter the cooler weather month and people spend more time inside around each other.”

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