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Pittsburg State adjusts operations amid coronavirus concerns

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused international panic and hysteria since its appearance in December in China.   

What started out with one reported case in Johnson County has turned into 34 confirmed cases in multiple counties within Kansas, according to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). As of Thursday, March 19, the most cases in Kansas are in Johnson County with 16 positive COVID-19 cases. There have been eight confirmed cases in Wyandotte County. Leavenworth County and Morris County are both reporting two cases as well. Butler County, Douglas County, Franklin County, Cherokee County, Jackson County and Linn County each have one confirmed case of COVID-19. There has been one death due to COVID-19 in Kansas. These numbers do not include people currently being tested for COVID-19.   

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of Thursday, March 19 there are a total of 10,442 cases of COVID-19 in the United States and 150 people have died. All fifty states are reporting cases of COVID-19 as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands.   

Pittsburg State University has been monitoring the evolving COVID-19 situation and has implemented several adjustments and changes concerning classes, events and ceremonies.   

PSU announced that all classes are going to be delivered entirely online for the remainder of the spring semester.   

Howard Smith, Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, in collaboration with other faculty members, is working to move face-to-face teaching and coursework online. Most work will be done entirely though Canvas, but they are also exploring using other tools like Zoom, Skype and livestreaming. Labs are being discussed by programs and departments on a case by case basis.   

“Our goal is to maintain the best possible high-quality experiences for our students that preserves progress toward their degrees,” Smith told the University Marketing and Communications Department. “Faculty are focusing intently on that this week.”  

Coursework will resume online and in alternative formats on Monday, March 30, and will continue that way for the remainder of the semester.   

In addition, in-person commencement ceremonies and commencement-related activities have been canceled. Students set to graduate are welcomed to walk at future ceremonies and PSU is currently working on alternative ways to celebrate those who are graduating.   

“We know how disappointing this is, as it’s an important milestone that all of us, not just students but also staff and faculty, look forward to each semester that marks the end of one chapter and the beginning of another,” said PSU President Steve Scott. “We will soon begin work on alternative ways to celebrate this great accomplishment, and graduates will be welcomed to walk at future ceremonies.”   

Furthermore, residence halls on campus will close beginning on Monday, March 23. International students and some domestic students will be allowed to reside in the dorms but may have to move to different rooms so that everyone is spread out and not in close capacity to each other. Those currently in the dorms are being asked to move out by Sunday, March 22. This closure does not apply to students residing in Block22.   

All university sponsored and university-related events are cancelled for the rest of the semester.   

The University Marketing and Communications Department issued a release on Monday, March 16 explaining measures being taken by PSU as well as changes the university is making.   

“The objective is to flatten the curve,” said Kathleen Sandness, medical director of the Bryant Student Health Center, told the University Marketing and Communications Department. “Protective measures have been proven to reduce the number of cases and prevent the health care system from exceeding capacity.”   

Abigail Fern, PSU Chief Marketing and Communications Officer, sent out a Bulk-E on Tuesday, March 17 with information on what students can do regarding COVID-19. In the Bulk-E, Fern discussed traveling for spring break specifically.   

“Not only could you contract the virus while traveling, you also risk bringing it home with you and infecting others, including those considered the most at-risk for serious and possibly fatal infections,” Fern said. “We all know someone who could be seriously affected by COVID-19, and we must think of them as well as ourselves during this time of global solidarity. The more people who spread this thing, the longer this pandemic will last.”   

Fern also touched on social distancing in the Bulk-E.   

“Just don’t do it (gather with friends or go out in public),” Fern said. “Stay away from each other. Social distancing is essential to slowing the spread of COVID-19. This means postponing parties, avoiding crowded public places, and otherwise chilling at home with as few other humans as much as humanly possible. Netflix binge, here you come. If you’re sick, don’t go anywhere. Period.”   

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has put a temporary hold on all public and private mass gatherings in Kansas. A mass gathering constitutes as 50 or more people coming together in a planned or spontaneous outing. Kelly has also temporarily prohibited all utility providers not under the jurisdiction of the Kansas Corporation Commission from disconnecting service to Kansas citizens for non-payment. This includes all electrical, natural gas, water and telecommunications utilities as well as internet providers. This order is in effect until May 1, 2020 or until the statewide State of Disaster Emergency relating to COVID-19 expires.   

The City of Pittsburg is urging community members to pay their bills online or over the phone.   

Visit pittstate.edu/coronavirus for updates in relation to PSU and COVID-19.   

Ali Vanzent, freshman in biology, moves out of Nation Hall on Wednesday, March 18. Pittsburg State has issued an emergency and asked students to move out of their dormitories by Sunday, March 22. All face-to-face classes are being converted to online classes and events on campus are shutdown for the semester including commencement.
Salehin Mahbub photo-editor

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