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Two more COVID cases at JSU, school officials say

JSU students leave (copy)

A near empty parking lot at Bibb Graves Hall on the Jacksonville State University campus in March, soon after the campus closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the United States. 

A student and a staff member at Jacksonville State University this week tested positive for COVID-19, according to Jeff Ryan, director of the university department of emergency management

Thursday afternoon the university posted to its website and social media accounts an announcement signed by Ryan and Dr. Oye Akisanya​, a professor of the school’s nursing department, that a student had tested positive for the virus, a fact the officials wrote that they had learned that morning. “Detailed contact tracing has occurred,” according to the release, though whether that was carried out by the school or the Alabama Department of Public Health was unclear. Areas of the school where the test-positive student had been were sanitized and disinfected, according to the announcement. 

“All individuals have been made aware of the situation,” according to the release. “The student who tested positive is in self-isolation and will remain so for at least 12 more days. The three students exposed are in self-quarantine and will remain so for 14 days.” 

Attempts to reach school officials by phone and email for more information were unsuccessful Friday. 

The release was the university’s second coronavirus announcement this week; on Wednesday another release signed by Ryan and Akisanya said a university employee had tested positive for the virus. According to the release, the school spoke with that person and determined there had been no risk of exposure to others at the school. 

JSU President Don Killingsworth said in mid-May that JSU plans to have students back in classrooms when classes resume on Aug. 18, the start of the fall semester. University staff had been working from home in the prior months, but returned full-time to their offices on June 1; a few days later, the school announced that an employee had tested positive for the virus, and four other employees had entered self-isolation for two weeks. The employee recovered, and none of the others presented symptoms, Ryan wrote in a release on June 15. 

The state Board of Education announced Friday that it would have Alabama schoolchildren resume in-person classes in the fall, but with distance learning options for parents who were uncomfortable sending their children to school. No apparent changes have been made to the university’s plans for fall, judging by COVID-19 updates posted to the school’s website

Both the University of Alabama and Auburn University have announced plans to return students to classrooms in the fall. UA has released a 22-page document detailing phased returns to each of its campuses. Each campus will operate based on its overall population requirements, according to the document, and no effective dates are specified. Auburn, meanwhile, will use a modified calendar with dates rearranged to minimize impact if another spike in cases occurs. Final exams will be held remotely, to keep students from having to return to the school after fall break. 

Incoming freshmen at JSU are required to attend an in-person orientation meeting as early as July 7, when a series of 11 orientation dates rescheduled from June begins. A school employee confirmed Friday afternoon that the events will be in-person, and masks will be made available to attendees. 

Assistant Metro Editor Ben Nunnally: 256-235-3560.