NNU to students: Stay in place as cases surge

Posted at 7:48 PM, Nov 10, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-12 08:48:57-05

NAMPA, Idaho — As coronavirus cases surge across the Treasure Valley and on-campus at Northwest Nazarene University, the university is issuing a "Stay-in-Place" directive.

“Hopefully, we can dodge the bullet here. Right now, our systems aren’t overwhelmed, but we want to make sure they don’t get close to that,” said Dr. Brad Kurtz-Shaw, NNU VP for Academic Affairs and Chair of 2020-21 COVID planning team.

The directive comes following 35 confirmed and probable cases on campus since Nov. 3, according to a news release from NNU. The university announced the majority of the cases identified in the past week are asymptomatic and found in the weekly saliva screening. Because of the screening, staff with Health Services were able to identify and support those impacted and limit the spread of COVID-19.

“We know we are not immune to this global pandemic, and we can expect that the trends in our larger community will be reflected on our campus,” Dr. Bryon Hemphill, director of NNU’s Health Services, said in a statement. “Although we are concerned for each individual impacted, we are pleased that the procedures we have in place have allowed us to keep the numbers of those who are positive, probable and/or quarantined at manageable levels.”

The university announced despite efforts to track and control the virus through saliva screenings, and cases have continued to increase. The "Stay-in-Place" directive comes following discussions with Southwest District Health to "take a proactive step to try and slow the spread" of coronavirus.

“We know we are dealing with an ever-changing virus that is now infecting thousands each week throughout our state --and we know we have no control over that,” said NNU President Joel Pearsall in a statement. “We can only control how we respond. We are committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our campus community while simultaneously ensuring our students receive the quality education they deserve, which is why we have made the decision to take more aggressive intervention measures at this time.”

The directive will be in effect from Nov. 11 until Nov. 17 and states:

  • All instruction will be delivered remotely.
  • Residential students will be asked to limit their movement around campus and will remain in their residential halls or apartments as much as possible, except to retrieve meals and for outdoor exercise; non-residential local students will be asked to limit their non-essential social engagements and practice increased caution in their workplaces.
  • All employees who can work remotely will do so and will limit time on campus.
  • Campus visitors and vendors will be further restricted.
  • All community members who are residing or working on campus will participate in daily saliva screening.

In-person classes are expected to resume Nov. 18, according to NNU. Most COVID-19 cases in the community have had minor symptoms, and none have yet needed hospitalization, but a few have "experienced more severe, flu-like symptoms," according to NNU.

Dr. Kurtz-Shaw praised the students and staff for working with them to stop the transmission of the virus.

“We’re in it together. It is not about an individual first, it’s about looking out for our neighbor, for a roommate, and looking out for our coworkers," he said. "I think people are entering it in the spirit of community and cooperation.”