The Current Situation with COVID-19 at Shawnee State University

Cameron Allen, Staff Reporter

It is a chaotic and confusing time on campus due to recent events that have occurred because of the Coronavirus. A national emergency has been declared because of the Coronavirus, and it is going to affect campuses across the nation. There is a lot of speculation on campus about how Shawnee State University is handling the situation and what is going to happen between students and staff alike. So far SSU has been informing students of how they are handling the situation to provide clarification to what is exactly going on.

On Mar. 9, Shawnee sent out an alert notifying students that three suspected coronavirus cases are under investigation at SSU and that possible contacts are being quarantined. This information was a surprise to students and presumably everyone else who received this alert on campus. On Mar. 10, the Office of the President sent out an email telling what they knew about the suspected COVID-19 cases and how the university was handling the situation. The email essentially told students that Shawnee was working with the Portsmouth Health Department, the Emergency Management Agency, SOMC, and the SSU Health Clinic to ensure that the situation was dealt with safely and effectively. Later that day an email was also sent out notifying students of the travel bans that have been put into effect due to the virus. So essentially, all non-essential travel has been canceled. Another email was also sent out on Mar. 11 notifying students that classes are going to be canceled for a week to allow professors to transfer to online classes for the rest of the semester.

This has been a staggering amount of information that students have had to ingest this week and there is probably still a good amount of confusion as to what exactly is going on. Not every student has access to alerts or checks their email often and this has left some people wondering about what exactly is going on and what the universities decision process is. Thankfully there are several faculty members on campus who are willing to elaborate on what is occurring.

Elizabeth Blevins, the Executive Director of Marketing and Communication, communicates with campus internally and externally to make sure that students and faculty are informed. She has been one of the faculty members who is making sure that students know everything about how the university is handling this situation. One of the first things that she said was that this situation “is all new” for most of the faculty members at Shawnee. There has never been a situation like this at Shawnee and it is proving to be a new experience for almost everyone. The university started communicating about the COVID-19 about a week before everyone got the alert about the three students who were suspected to have the virus.

Regarding the first alert that most of the students received, she said that the university decided to send out an alert that there were 3 students being observed to keep students informed, not to start a panic. It was an effort to make sure that the university was disclosing information just in case the students did test positive for the virus. Shortly after that, the university sent out a message letting students know that classes are going to be cancelled until Mar. 20. She was informed that this was done as a decision for “Professional Development” in order to allow the professors to have time to move their courses to an online setting and figure out what their course schedules are going to be for the rest of the semester.

“Anytime you have something like this done there are going to be exceptions,” she said, referring to the fact that not every class online is going to be the same going from professor to professor, “One of the fine arts faculty said that his students use discord and are quite comfortable and that he is going to start using it for his students.”

Naturally some classes are going to have a much easier time moving online. She made it clear that students should not worry and that professors will have enough time to have everything set up by Mar. 20. Most university services like career services and counseling will still be open to provide students the necessary services that they need. The communications department and other departments are going to keep students updated on what exactly is going to happen moving forward because of emergency. This will be done with emails that are going to be regularly sent out to students informing them. If you have any questions about anything you can contact the university or student government and ask whatever question and voice whatever concern that you may have. They will help you out in any way that they can, responding quickly and concisely.

One of the students who was told to self-quarantine because they were suspected to have symptoms that coronavirus shared his story. The student was on a trip on spring break that wasn’t affiliated with the university and when they returned one of the students was displaying flu-like symptoms. Due to this, the three students were self-quarantined for 48 hours until the results came back saying that they were negative for COVID-19. When asked about his experience, he replied that he was just glad that he got excused from of class for a few days. Hopefully, this information will help reassure that there are no current cases of COVID-19 on campus as of now.

This is certainly a stressful time for both students and staff at Shawnee. Hopefully this information helps clarify any questions that you may have had about what is going on. If you have any questions please reach out the university, your professors, and student government. They will assist you in any way they can.

For a consolidation of information from the emails over the past couple of weeks, you can check out this article for A Clearer Picture.