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NNU issues week-long 'stay-in-place' after jump in COVID-19 cases

The directive comes after 35 people on campus were diagnosed with positive or probable coronavirus since last week.

NAMPA, Idaho — Students at Northwest Nazarene University will move back to online instruction for a week after the school issued a "stay-in-place" directive in response to rising coronavirus cases on campus. 

"We are discouraging them from going into the community right now, not because we don't love Nampa and the rest of the Treasure Valley but because our rates infection are high," said Dr. Brad Kurtz-Shaw, the university's vice president of academic affairs. "Our stay at home order, we think about as a reset to get some rising infection levels in check so that we can, after a week, move back to face-to-face instruction."

The "stay-in place" order runs from Wednesday, Nov. 11 through the end of Tuesday, Nov. 17. 

According to NNU officials, 35 people at the campus have been diagnosed as COVID-19 positive or probable since Nov. 3. It's unclear how many of those are students and how many are staff members.

“We know we are not immune to this global pandemic and we can expect that the trends in our larger community will be reflected on our campus,” said Dr. Bryon Hemphill, director of NNU’s health services. “Although we are concerned for each individual impacted, we are pleased that the procedures we have in place have allowed us to keep the numbers of those who are positive, probable and/or quarantined at manageable levels.” 

RELATED: Northwest Nazarene University begins saliva-based coronavirus screenings

Most of those 35 cases were identified through the college's campus-wide asymptomatic weekly saliva screening. NNU leadership held discussions about the rising cases with Southwest District Health before opting to issue the "stay-in-place" order.

“We know we are dealing with an ever-changing virus that is now infecting thousands each week throughout our state - and we know we have no control over that,” said NNU President Joel Pearsall. “We can only control how we respond. We are committed to prioritizing the health and safety of our campus community while simultaneously ensuring our students receive the quality education they deserve, which is why we have made the decision to take more aggressive intervention measures at this time.”

RELATED: Idaho colleges and universities finalize reopening plans, offer in-person learning before Thanksgiving

During the week-long "stay-in-place," all instruction will be done remotely and students living on-campus will be asked to stay in their dorms or apartments as much as possible, with the exception of getting meals or outdoor exercise. Students who live locally, but not on campus, are asked to limit social engagements and practice increased caution at their jobs.

Visitors and vendors to campus will be further restricted, and all NNU staff who can do so will work from home.

In addition, every person living or working on campus will participate in daily saliva screenings, NNU officials said.

RELATED: Incidence rates show coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Idaho

In-person classes will start back up on Wednesday, Nov. 18 and run until the beginning of Thanksgiving break on Nov. 25. After the Thanksgiving break, students will be allowed to decide whether to complete the semester in-person or remotely.

"Our primary goal is to have face-to-face learning make its way all through the semester on Dec. 10, which will be the last day of final exams and we think we are still on track for doing that," Kurtz-Shaw said.

NNU leaders said that although a few people have had severe symptoms of COVID-19, most have had only minor symptoms. No students or staff have required hospitalization.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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