As the COVID-19 outbreak spreads across the United States, Oklahoma Christian University administrators are taking steps to protect students and faculty.
In an email sent to students on Tuesday afternoon, Dean of Students Neil Arter provided an update on how Oklahoma Christian plans to prevent the spread of the virus. While no Oklahoma Christian students or faculty have contracted the virus, all Ethos events for the remainder of the week will be canceled as a precautionary measure, Arter said. In addition, all non-athletic, university-sponsored travel over spring break has been canceled.
“Please know this email is no cause for alarm,” Arter said. “We are simply working carefully to respond thoughtfully and appropriately as this situation continues to develop. We’re consulting leaders at other universities, monitoring university responses across the state and country and closely following the expert advice shared by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and others.”
Known commonly as the coronavirus, the first case of COVID-19 appeared in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. As of late Tuesday night, more than 119,000 coronavirus cases and 4,298 coronavirus-related deaths were reported worldwide. At least 975 cases and 30 deaths have been reported in the United States. The closest reported COVID-19 case to Oklahoma Christian is 100 miles away in Tulsa, OK.
Although COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the common flu, those who contract the coronavirus face a much higher chance of death. COVID-19 has a mortality rate of 3.5%, while the seasonal flu has a mortality rate of about 0.1%. COVID-19 patients over the age of 80 face a 14.8% mortality rate.
During the Talon Town Hall held on Tuesday evening, President John deSteiguer said the university is prepared to close campus and hold classes online if the situation worsens. Several universities across the U.S., including Harvard University and Ohio State University, have already announced plans to move all classes online.
“You might hear from us in a day or two, saying, ‘Hey, when you go home for spring break, just in case, you ought to take your laptop and the other materials you use for classes in case we decide for some reason that we needed to suspend class for a few days or a week or two weeks,’” deSteiguer said. “That just means we’d be suspending classes meeting in person, and we’d still be anticipating having classes online.”
Although unlikely, deSteiguer said the university is also prepared to adjust graduation ceremony plans if the situation worsens.
“If I said there was no possibility of [postponing graduation], I would be making an inaccurate statement,” deSteiguer said. “Something could happen that would cause us to say, ‘We’ve got to send everyone home and complete things online.’”