Patterson Hall classes moved online

SRU moves 34 classes online after potential coronavirus exposure.

Published by , Date: September 5, 2020

Slippery Rock University has moved 34 classes to online instructions Tuesday night due to a campus community member being exposed to the coronavirus.

The classes will be held online through Sept. 15 “out of an abundance of caution,” said Executive Director of Planning and Environmental Health Safety Paul Novak in an email.

Academic leadership were notified early Tuesday evening by the SRU COVID-19 Response Team. Faculty were instructed to inform their students immediately, Novak said.

Novak clarified it was at least one community member in Patterson but could not say more due to privacy concerns. SRU defines a campus community member as either a student, faculty or staff member.

Student Health Services was contacting students who may have been exposed to the community member in accordance with SRU’s Quarantine and Isolation Plan. The plan is based on Pennsylvania Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines, according to Novak.

Director of Student Health and Wellness Kristina Benkeser said she did not know how many people were contacted with regard to the Patterson Hall exposure but said Health Services had tested about 50 people since the start of the semester.

The testing done on campus is a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) nasal swab. Individuals experiencing symptoms are provided with the swab and a nurse observes the test via telehealth service, Benkeser said.

Some students have gone outside the university for testing, Benkeser said. She asked that students who do get tested elsewhere should still notify the SRU Health Services as they are able to provide guidance to individuals about how to best protect themselves and others.

Based on data from SRU’s Dynamic Schedule, Patterson Hall held 34 multi-modal classes which accounted for 9% of all multi-modal classes this semester. Courses held in Patterson ranged in disciplines from art to exercise rehabilitation science and recreational therapy.

The Rocket reached out to SRU chairpersons in the affected departments for further comment but have not heard back.

Speaking on behalf of SRU’s Student Government Association, Vice President of Outreach Amanda Reilly said they had no additional comment on the COVID-19 mitigation efforts for Patterson Hall.

Reilly added, “however, we would like to remind all students that this is a result of the choices that you make while on campus and in the Slippery Rock community.”

The SRSGA urges students to continue wearing masks and avoid large campus gatherings.

Last week, the university sent out an email to students addressing off-campus events happening, along with photos and videos showing students not following social distancing guidelines or wearing masks. At the time of the email, SRU reported only three confirmed cases of COVID-19.

From Aug. 20 to Sept. 4, SRU has reported 36 confirmed student cases, according to SRU’s Campus COVID-19 Cases webpage. No faculty or staff are listed as having tested positive.

During that same time period, Butler County has reported 60 cases, according to data from state DOH. How many of those cases are SRU students is unclear.

While cases are normally tracked by residency, college students are tracked by where they spend most of their time during the year. Normally, this would be where the student attends college but with a majority of students taking classes remotely this semester, they may be counted in SRU’s numbers and another county’s.

The Rocket has asked for a breakdown of positive cases by on and off-campus residency but was denied by the university, citing privacy concerns.

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Joe is a senior communication major with concentrations in converged journalism and digital media production. This is his second year with The Rocket and first as the news editor. With a penchant for asking tough questions, his byline can be found on more than 100 articles for The Rocket including many breaking news and investigative pieces. During the hours he’s not wearing the hat of student journalist, he spends his time as a husband, father and dog owner in Slippery Rock.


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