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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Administration

Board of Regents discuss protocols for social distancing, coronavirus cases


As of Sunday, 181 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since March, according to the University’s count. | Christopher Charleston/The Cougar

Seated behind transparent safety shields, the UH System Board of Regents discussed the University’s coronavirus plans for Fall 2020 at their quarterly meeting Thursday. 

The University plans to implement a three-pronged approach to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus on campus that concentrates on social distancing, wearing masks and hygiene.

This will include reconfiguring classrooms to maintain a 6-foot distance between students, sanitizing high-touch surfaces and making sanitizing wipes and hand sanitizer readily available, said administration and finance chief Jim McShan in a presentation on the University’s coronavirus prevention practices.

In addition to mitigation tactics, the Board addressed what will happen in the event that a student or University employee tests positive for the coronavirus or comes into contact with someone who has COVID-19.

Protocols will be implemented regarding diagnosis reporting, exposure response and specific cleaning procedures. Designated rooms within student housing have been set aside for instances where quarantine or isolation are necessary.

For students, coronavirus testing will be available at the Student Health Center with a 48-hour turnaround.

As of Sunday, 181 students, faculty and staff have tested positive for the coronavirus since March, according to the University’s count.

One board member expressed concern that the number of confirmed cases could spike following the start of the academic year due to large, off-campus gatherings.

Citing recent coronavirus clusters on campuses in North Carolina and Iowa, the board member asked what the University is doing to discourage students from gathering off campus.

The mandatory coronavirus training that students must complete before returning to campus, as well as other information released by the University, adequately addresses this issue, said UH chief legal counsel Dona Cornell.

“We have protocols for absolutely everything. Hopefully, we’ve thought of everything,” Cornell said. “We reinforce good behavior for all of our students. I hope it’s enough.”

Following the statement by Cornell, the University is looking at foregoing rush season for fraternities and sororities in the upcoming semester; President and Chancellor Renu Khator clarified that rush will be held in a remote format this fall.

“(Fraternity and sorority) recruitment will be done virtually. No social events with alcohol will be permitted for the fall. This has been communicated,” Khator said.

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