Livingstone maintains low COVID-19 numbers; Catawba not under threat

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 8, 2020

Carl Blankenship

SALISBURY — Just two people have tested positive for COVID-19 at Livingstone College since faculty and students came back to campus in September.

The college took a no-holds-barred approach to infection control, going so far as testing all staff and students, decontaminating the campus with electrostatic sprayers and applying an antimicrobial finish to campus surfaces. Livingstone Chief Operating Officer Anthony Davis said one of the two infections was an asymptomatic student, and the other was a staff member who was tested elsewhere and notified the college.

One other student was experiencing the flu-like symptoms associated with COVID-19 and tested negative. Davis said the campus health center has not been overcrowded and has stayed open and available to all students.

Livingstone began classes later than most institutions, starting in September instead of August, and opted for a blended model that combines virtual and in-person instruction along with standard infection control measures like enhanced cleaning, hand sanitizer stations and a mask requirement on campus.

The college also distributed personal protective equipment kits to everyone on campus.

Davis said students on campus take the requirements seriously, wearing masks and maintaining social distance even in the cafeteria, and the campus is safe because it is following the correct measures, not because the virus is not there.

“Safe, but sensible,” Davis said. “Safe is relative. I still have to wear my mask, I still have to keep social distancing and I still have to wash my hands. I have to do all three. ”

The college’s plan to test all students was intended to identify people asymptomatic cases and prevent them from spreading it. Davis pointed to the antimicrobial finish as a worthy investment for the college.

Davis said the protocols were put in place because after studying the science the college determined it would need this many.

“It’s because of the protocols we put in place,” Davis said, adding the campus screens for symptoms daily and it is winning the fight against the spread of the viral infection.

Davis said he expected the protocols would work well, and that he would have been disappointed if the college invested so many resources in the measures and seen widespread infections.

Catawba College has seen a total of 13 infections, including 10 students and three staff members. A total of 22 staff and students are in isolation or quarantine.

Drew Davis, Director of Human Resources and legal counsel for the college, said the numbers do not pose a threat to shutting down campus operations, though the college will not be returning to in-person classes for the remainder of the semester after Thanksgiving break.

The college will also not begin classes for the spring semester until Jan. 25. Davis, who his leading the college’s effort to return and remain on campus, said the goal is to prevent the campus from being impacted by a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections this winter.

“An average of one case per week is outstanding,” Davis said. “We’re really proud of the efforts of our students. They have, for the most part, continued to follow the protocols.”

Davis said the college and all of higher education is entering a dangerous time as cold and flu season approaches, and it will be important for everyone involved to not become lax with protocols.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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