Cases of COVID-19 at Winona State University have more than doubled over the last week as school officials brace for more following a holiday weekend.
Confirmed cases on the campus went to 209 through Sept. 6 from 97 total cases through Aug. 30. This jump, and an anticipated spike in cases following the Labor Day holiday weekend, prompted university officials to institute a two-week, campus-wide quarantine Tuesday.
“Because many (students) had been traveling, that created a greater risk,” university president Scott R. Olson said in an online news conference Wednesday. “We felt we had to take swift action in light of that.”
“We just took human behavior into account,” said Denise McDowell, WSU vice president for enrollment management and student life.
Olson said the time period the Minnesota Department of Health recommends people to isolate if they believe they might have been exposed to COVID-19. Olson said he hopes to “flatten the line” on the upward trend in new cases on campus.
Most of the cases are asymptomatic or mild, he said, adding he is unaware of any students or staff having to be hospitalized for the virus.
About half of WSU’s classes had already moved to remote instruction and online classwork.
Classes that require face-to-face instruction and work will still continue, which Olson said is the intention of the plan — to continue instruction for students and not close the campus.
He noted that major areas of study — nursing and engineering — require in-person instruction and work.
“Those require some amount of labs to keep producing engineers and nurses,” he said.
Currently, 271 students and staff are isolating themselves on and off campus due to confirmed cases or possible exposure to infection and 169 people are quarantined on and off campus due to possible COVID-19 exposure.
Students are being asked to cooperate with requirements to wear masks and keep physical distance from others. Campus residents who aren’t isolating are allowed one visitor at a time.
McDowell said about 60 students have been warned about behaviors violating campus COVID-19 guidelines. McDowell said she expects students to cooperate with the recommendations.
She and Olson said school leaders are appealing to student leaders and students’ better nature.
“I think there are students who are disappointed, but I think they understand,” McDowell said.
“Our student leaders have been very supportive and onboard with these initiatives,” Olson said.