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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Campus

University works to prevent coronavirus spread at off-campus events


The University is working to prevent coronavirus spread at off-campus gatherings through digital outreach and signage. | Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The University is working to prevent coronavirus spread at off-campus gatherings through digital outreach and signage. | Courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

As colleges and universities across the country contend with spikes in COVID-19 cases resulting from off-campus gatherings, the University is working to prevent similar coronavirus clusters from forming within the UH community. 

Through a combination of information provided in the mandatory coronavirus training, digital communications and additional signage, the University aims to prevent off-campus parties and other large student gatherings noncompliant with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Such events have already resulted in rapid viral spread at universities in Iowa and North Carolina, among other states.

“While there is no way to eliminate all risk, we have strived to create a learning, working and living environment that is as safe as possible,” UH spokesperson Shawn Lindsey said. “We expect Coogs to understand the role we all must play to stop the spread of COVID-19 and to comply with the guidelines.” 

The required “Protecting Our Campus Communities from COVID-19” training that students had to complete before returning to campus for the fall semester did not explicitly state guidelines for off-campus gatherings. 

“The training addresses prevention strategies, including social distancing, hand hygiene and the wearing of face coverings,” Lindsey said. “We expect all our faculty, staff and students to be responsible and follow the appropriate prevention strategies on and off campus.” 

An update to the UH COVID-19 website made after the fall semester’s start addresses potential student, faculty and staff questions about the University’s position on off-campus parties and social gatherings during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It is each person’s responsibility to take steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19 to our campus community, including staying away from parties and social gatherings where social distancing and face covering practices are not followed,” according to the website.

 This announcement comes after off-campus gatherings caused coronavirus outbreaks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Iowa.

The CDC defines an outbreak as two contacts being identified with active COVID-19 or two or more patients with COVID-19 being discovered as linked outside of a case investigation and contact tracing. 

English junior Febha Mathew thinks that students gathering off campus have the potential to be safe as long as those involved adhere to health and safety guidelines. 

“I think gathering off campus could be safe as long as people are smart and careful about it,” Mathew said. “Not just to care for themselves but also to care for others … If (someone has) no symptoms and nothing that would make others panic or worry, I would say it is safe to meet up. Just wear a face mask.” 

The University is relying in part on good faith in their students to uphold health and safety guidelines for off-campus gatherings. 

“Like all other universities around the country, we have to rely on the good faith efforts of our students, faculty and staff,” Lindsey said. “The University expects that all members of our campus community comply with campus and local guidelines, we can’t do it alone.” 

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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