EAC Photo: Five full-time employees and one part-time employee is part of the current cluster of 13 new COVID-19 positive tests in Graham County.
By Kris McBride
THATCHER — Last week, an Eastern Arizona College employee was contacted by the Graham County Department of Health Services for possible exposure to an individual who had tested positive for COVID-19. Each member of that employee’s department was immediately sent home to be quarantined and tested. As of today, five full-time employees and one part-time employee have since tested positive for COVID-19. These employees have not returned to campus and continue to be quarantined in their homes. The impacted offices, restrooms, and other relevant areas on campus have been sanitized using recommendations provided by the Centers for Disease Control.
Anyone who came into direct contact with these individuals on campus has been contacted by the college and asked to self-quarantine. These individuals will also be given an antibody test to determine if they have been exposed to the virus and developed antibodies against it.
“The health and well-being of our students and employees remain our highest priority,” said Todd Haynie, president of Eastern Arizona College. “We are doing everything we can to support these individuals through what is undoubtedly a difficult time. The COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten our community and campus, and it is critical that we abide by strict social distancing protocols to protect ourselves and others.”
EAC has already taken strict measures to protect the campus community and flatten the curve of COVID-19. Last month, students were asked not to return to campus after spring break and the majority of all classes were moved to remote learning. In addition, work schedules were staggered to promote social distancing, and employees were asked to telecommute, leaving most of the campus largely unoccupied. Dining and housing services were significantly limited for a handful of students who had to remain on campus, and all college-related travel and events were canceled, including its spring sports season. EAC canceled its in-person commencement and will air an online ceremony on May 8. As of last week, the college developed even stricter social distancing measures, requiring that a face covering be worn in all campus buildings.
EAC’s summer term, which begins on Monday, June 1, will consist primarily of online or remote courses. The college has not yet made a decision for coursework for the fall semester, scheduled to begin Monday, Aug. 24, but is developing plans for reopening following guidance from local, state, and federal authorities.
Since the pandemic occurred, the college has consistently developed measures to stop the spread of germs and communicated the importance of social distancing. All campus facilities, including, housing, dining, and all academic, administrative, and athletic facilities, have been thoroughly sanitized. Signage has been displayed throughout the campus, and videos, live virtual events, and email and text correspondence have been developed to educate students and faculty about the importance of social distancing. The campus marquee and website have also contained important information about COVID-19.
As a reminder, most people with COVID-19 develop mild to moderate illness without the need for medical care. Those with underlying health conditions are at higher risk of developing a serious illness. The most important things we can do to limit the spread of illness is to:
· Stay home when you are sick and avoid close contact with others;
· Wear a facemask when in public;
· Wash hands often with soap and water for a least 20 seconds. If water is not available, use hand sanitizer, with at least 60% alcohol;
· Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands;
· Avoid contact with people who are sick;
· Cover your mouth/nose with a tissue or sleeve when coughing or sneezing. Immediately throw the tissue in the garbage;
· Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular EPA registered household cleaning spray or wipes;
· Stay informed by visiting the Graham County Department of Health Services<https://www.graham.az.gov/254/Health>, the Arizona Department of Health Services<https://www.azdhs.gov/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/infectious-disease-epidemiology/index.php#novel-coronavirus-home>, the Centers for Disease Control<https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html>.
EAC will continue to actively educate its campuses with information about COVID-19 prevention strategies, which can be found at www.eac.edu/safety.