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VCU senior 'completely livid' over COVID-19 cases during opening week

Student: 'I was upset to say the least, because I am part of the vulnerable population'
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Posted at 11:16 PM, Aug 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-21 00:42:01-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- Three days after classes resumed at Virginia Commonwealth University in downtown Richmond, VCU has confirmed three dozen positive COVID-19 cases on campus.

“I was baffled. I was completely livid. I was upset to say the least, because I am part of the vulnerable population," VCU Senior Bianca Eaton said.

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Of those infected, 25 were VCU students and 11 were staff, according to metrics posted on the university's COVID-19 dashboard.

"Of the entry testing we've conducted for residential students before they arrived on campus, 4,380 tested negative and 15 tested positive," VCU spokesperson Mike Porter wrote in an email. "We would not identify details that could compromise the privacy of a student or employee but each time there is a case of COVID-19 confirmed by the Virginia Department of Health, student health or employee health will get in touch directly with those who have come into close contact with the person to begin two weeks of self-quarantine and health monitoring."

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Eleven VCU students were listed as in on-campus isolation and 32 students in on-campus quarantine. An alert sent out Thursday evening by VCU also showed that eight of the 25 students were infected with the virus during a party.

"Isolation separates those who test positive from people who are not sick," the website explained. "Quarantine separates and restricts the movement of those who may have been exposed to see if they become sick."

Approximately half of VCU’s classes, which started Monday, will be held in-person. Nearly 35 percent are online, with the remaining scheduled as a hybrid form.

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“It was going to happen," Dr. Tim Bajkiewicz, Associate Professor of Broadcast Journalism at VCU, said.

Dr. Bajkiewicz is taking part in the nearly 35 percent of classes being taught virtually this fall and said other teachers are beginning to worry.

“I’ve talked to a lot of instructors who are teaching live and they’re nervous and everyone wants to do right by the students but what that means is a pretty tough thing to figure out," Dr. Bajkiewicz said.

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VCU employees and students are required to log their symptoms each day through a program called OneVCU - Responsible Together. Eaton believes the university should have been better prepared.

At the beginning of the month, members of the VCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors approved a resolution that said “the health and safety of students, faculty, and staff should be the primary consideration in decision-making about when to reopen a campus.”

They asked VCU administration to reconsider the in-person start to instruction.

CBS 6 has also reached out to the other major universities in the Metro Richmond-area for information about COVID-19 on their campuses.

The University of Richmond directed us to their dashboard which “provide updates on COVID-19 data specifically related to the campus community”. The dashboard shows that as of August 18 there are six active cases. There have been a total of 11 cases since July 12.

CBS 6 is still waiting to hear back from Virginia Union University and Virginia State University.

COVID-19 Precautions

Most patients with COVID-19 have mild to moderate symptoms. However, in a small proportion of patients, COVID-19 can lead to more severe illness, including death, particularly among those who are older or those who have chronic medical conditions.

COVID-19 spreads primarily through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes.

Symptoms include fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. Symptoms appear within 14 days of being exposed to an infectious person.

Virginia health officials urged the following precautions:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer only if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Avoid contact with sick people.
  • Avoid non-essential travel.