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Livingstone looking to ward off COVID-19 with a robust plan

By Carl Blankenship
carl.blankenship@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY – Livingstone College has opted to delay beginning fall semester classes until Sept. 8 as it readies itself for in-person learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Chief Operating Officer Anthony Davis said the delayed start gives the college time to prepare the campus and more time to watch the status of the pandemic.

Many other colleges and universities opted for a normal August start date. Catawba College began classes on Tuesday. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill shut down in-person classes on Monday after more than 100 students tested positive for the disease.

Livingstone College says it wants to prevent spread from people who may be infected and are asymptomatic. Davis said the college is managing a moving target and has added more robust testing to its opening plan.

Now, the college has contracted to test all students, faculty and staff when they arrive and can return the results of those tests within 48 hours. Davis said randomized, continuing testing is part of the college’s plan as well.

He said the protocol is unique and the college began planning for a full reopening in May while keeping in mind the pandemic has disproportionately affected African Americans.

The college’s plan also includes protocols that have become standards for preventing the spread of COVID-19, including requiring everyone on campus to wear face coverings, maintain social distancing and providing frequent hand sanitizing stations.

The college will mix traditional classes with all face-to-face instruction, live-streamed, online and hybrid models.

There are enhanced cleaning protocols in place and taken steps like adding an antimicrobial layer to most surfaces in buildings and placing plexiglass shields throughout campus. Faculty will have portable shields for use in their offices during meetings. The college has also designated a place to house students who need to quarantine.

“The safety of our students, faculty and staff is paramount, which is why we are leaving no stone unturned in ensuring we are fully prepared to reopen our campus in September,” Livingstone President Jimmy Jenkins said in a statement to the Post. “Our reopening plan is comprehensive yet we realize the most thorough protocols are not foolproof when it comes to this global pandemic. We are hoping for the best in creating an environment for learning in this COVID-19 era and urge our campus community to comply with the safeguards we have in place.”

No one has a plan that will guarantee safety, Davis said. Livingstone’s plan is not a cure for COVID-19, but the plan seeks to confront the disease and break the chain of transmission, he said.

“Wear your mask, wash your hands, maintain six feet of social distancing,” Davis said. “That is the formula to confront, or fight COVID-19.”

Davis pointed to a survey conducted by the United Negro College Fund, of which Livingstone is a member, that indicated 90% of students want to return to in-person learning.

“Mobile learning is just not the best possible option,” Davis said.

The last step for the Livingstone is to bring staff and students back on campus.

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