Andrew Ringle, Managing Editor
VCU is monitoring the new coronavirus as the number of confirmed cases grows across the country and in Virginia.
There are eight presumptive positive cases of COVID-19 in Virginia according to the Virginia Department of Health and almost 1,000 cases of the disease across the United States, according to a New York Times database.
“Our priority is – as always – the health, wellness and safety of all members of our community and of those communities we proudly serve,” said university president Michael Rao in a statement emailed to students.
There are no confirmed COVID-19 cases associated with VCU, Rao said. However, because of the likelihood of new cases in the Richmond area, experts from the university and health system are working to develop a response plan.
COVID-19, short for coronavirus disease 2019, is caused by a member of the coronavirus family that is similar to the SARS and MERS viral outbreaks. It first appeared in Wuhan, China, late last year.
VCU events in New York surrounding the Atlantic 10 tournament, in which the men’s basketball team is scheduled to play Thursday, have been canceled due to concern about the spread of coronavirus. Canceled events include:
- Thursday’s pregame reception at the Barclays Center
- Thursday’s Ram Fan Fest at The Ainsworth restaurant in Chelsea
- Saturday’s Headshots and Happy Hour event at Velvet Brooklyn
“VCU’s priority is the health and safety of each member of our Ram family,” read a statement regarding the canceled events from the Office of Alumni Relations.
At the university level, the Incident Coordinating Team, or ICT, has broken into work groups to plan for potential scenarios, Rao said. This includes alternatives for in-person classroom instruction and large group gatherings, as well as housing and dining.
“We are cognizant … of our responsibility to be proactive and thoughtful as leaders of a community that values each and every one of its members,” Rao said. “That includes being timely and proactive with responses without instilling undue anxiety in an already stressful situation.”
University spokesperson Michael Porter said in an email that test kits for COVID-19 are in limited supply across the country, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have strict criteria regarding who should be tested. Symptoms include fever, cough and shortness of breath.
Students or employees who are experiencing those symptoms — and have traveled to an area with a CDC travel advisory for COVID-19 or have been in close contact with a person with COVID-19 — should contact their local health care provider, Porter said.
“It is important to call ahead if possible to prevent other people from being exposed,” Porter said.
Porter said health care professionals will work with the Virginia Department of Health or the local public health department and the CDC to determine if any student or employee at VCU should be tested for COVID-19.
The ICT is working with VCU Health’s Coronavirus Task Force to respond to changing circumstances regarding the virus. Daily updates can be found at the university’s COVID-19 site, which can be found on the VCU homepage and through VCU Alert.