Separating fact from fiction on Coronavirus
By Connor Renshaw, Deana Johnson, Andrew Faucher
Around 7 o’clock Wednesday, March 11, Ripon College students received an email from Ripon College President Zach Messitte that cancelled all “non-essential” campus events for the remainder of the week in response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak reaching Fond du Lac County. Wednesday afternoon, two cases of the potentially deadly disease were confirmed in the county. The email explains that, at this point, classes will continue to meet through Friday, but students should prepare to take all essential personal and course materials before leaving campus for spring break this Friday, March 13. President Messitte added that the college will have a more complete statement tomorrow, March 12, in regard to the length of spring break, online classes and college-sponsored spring break travel.
The message arrived in wake of spreading unease among the Ripon community about Coronavirus. The Fond du Lac Country cases raise the total in Wisconsin to six, with other cases confirmed in Waukesha County, Dane County and Pierce County. Other institutions such as UW-Madison, Beloit College and UWM have opted to use online courses in favor of in-person classes, as well as extending students’ spring breaks. Additionally, Ripon College’s Italy study abroad program has been cancelled.
A previous statement from the Office of the President stated, “At this time, Ripon College is not restricting domestic travel during spring break for students, faculty, or staff. If you do travel be prepared to be flexible regarding your plans. If public health concerns regarding your travel destination have changed by the time you return, self-isolation or quarantine may be required.”
If restrictions on travel are addressed in Thursday’s statement, the decision would fall into the hands of the Administration and the College’s Emergency Response Team. Based on recommendations from the Center of Disease Control and the State of Wisconsin Department of Health, restrictions may possibly obstruct travel to “Hot Spots” worldwide or within the United States.
If a member of the campus community were to develop a confirmed case of coronavirus, two steps would be immediately taken in response.
“Fond du Lac County would be notified and the Emergency Response Team would meet. Based on the State of Wisconsin’s instruction, I would suspect screening of all close contacts to the confirmed case as well as a 14 day self quarantine for those close contacts,” Campus Nurse Kathy Welch said.
In the past week, Ripon College students have been quarantined after suspected exposure to COVID-19 at the Conservitive Political Action Conference in Washington D.C.
Junior Michael Cohoon was one of a number of students who received an email from President Messitte instructing them to not attend classes Monday, March 9. The quarantine was initially extended to March 14, but no students have developed symptoms of Coronavirus, and the Fond du Lac Department of Health ruled them safe to resume normal activities.
“We all understood that the Coronavirus is a serious and potentially life-threatening virus and the last thing that any of us wanted was to potentially bring it back and spread it around campus. So, we were happy to follow the request to remain isolated until the college knew more,” said Cohoon before adding, “There are a lot of students going on vacation for spring break and many are going to California or Florida, both of which have declared states of emergency due to the Coronavirus. I think it will be interesting to see how that is handled when we all come back from spring break.”
If a student begins to experience symptoms of Coronavirus, Welch advises that the student calls Health Services or Ripon Medical Center for further instruction rather than just showing up for evaluation.
Ripon College and the Fond du Lac County Health Department continue to encourage students to follow the appropriate hygiene protocol outlined by the CDC (linked below).
The College will, as of the publication of this article, continue to adhere to the travel recommendations and restrictions outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Department of State (linked below).