To better disseminate information about COVID-19, the PSU office of marketing and communication has begun hosting briefings with various members of the PSU and Pittsburg community.
The inaugural media briefing took place on Wednesday, Aug. 26 at 1:15 p.m. and featured PSU President Steve Scott and Crawford County Health Officer Timothy Stebbins briefing members of the press on topics such as the response by university staff to rises in cases in the county, further reminders of the serious nature of health and safety guidelines set by local, state, and federal officials and more data concerning the number of cases in Crawford County.
“We have reached a very important moment in this pandemic and it’s in fact a global pandemic,” Scott said. “We’re here to update you on some of decisions we’re making, the challenges we’re facing… (and) our thoughts about where things might go…”
Scott said in the briefing that university staff look at three areas, or “lanes,” when making decisions.
“One lane involves, ‘What’s the governor doing?” Scott said. “What’s the legislature doing and the policies they’re making…’ (The second lane) involves our local health officials here in Crawford County. What kind of direction are we getting from them? (That has to) be at the top of our list of what dictates… what our response is, what kind of decisions, and what policies are put to be in place that we need… The third lane we look at is what are other institutions doing. What are our colleagues doing? What are our competitors doing? Universities across the nation are dealing with this (pandemic)…”
Scott also referred to the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, when talking about poor COVID responses, where the university opened with a hybrid for nearly a week before having a skyrocket in cases and once again moved all classes back online as in the middle of the spring semester.
“Some universities are handling this better than others..,” Scott said.
Scott also invited Stebbins to speak on the number of cases and the Crawford County department of health’s response to a sharp rise in cases. According to Stebbins, there are currently 100 active cases in isolation, up from 34, and 400 in quarantine, up from 71. Stebbins also said that approximately 50% of cases are of those in the 18-25 age range.
“Our goal is to keep the university open and that required swift and effective action,” Stebbins said. “Numbers are rising quickly, and we are trying to stay on top of it, but we need students to help.”
While Scott and Stebbins expressed disappointment in the prevalence of off-campus gatherings despite clear health and safety guidelines, when asked about the potential consequence of Greek organizations who don’t comply with these guidelines, Stebbins said that Greek houses were “not the issue.”
“You know, we looked this morning at the data about organizations and we have not seen a problem,” Scott said. “They (Greek organizations) were given very clear directions early on about what was allowed and what was not allowed in terms of parties… Right now, at this moment, we do not see that as an issue, but that could very well change tonight… That could change this weekend so there’s no time to celebrate… At the University of Kansas, they’ve got a number of fraternities who have been quarantined… We have had one sorority (Alpha Sigma Alpha) that had a gathering that was ill-advised that resulted in some infections that we were not pleased about…”
Scott also announced that all intercollegiate athletics out of Pittsburg State would be suspended until Sept. 14 and all extracurricular activities organized by the Campus Activities Center would be suspended or moved entirely online starting Friday, Aug. 28. Additionally, Gibson Dining Hall will soon be taking carry out orders by phone or email, although the date this would start was not specified.
Stebbins and Scott both stressed the importance of personal responsibility by both students and businesses to help stop the spread.
“Stop all parties,” Stebbins said. “Stop gathering. Stop going to bars. Please stop all activity where the virus spreads easily so we can get this under control and move on… We’re in a protected normal… We’d like to return to a ‘normal normal.”