TAHLEQUAH, Oklahoma – A dormitory floor for sorority members at a university in Northeastern Oklahoma was evacuated after several students showed symptoms of COVID-19, and at least one reportedly tested positive for virus.
Audrey Gilliam, a Northeastern State University student who lives in Northwest Leoser hall, said once she and several other dorm residents reported through the NSU website and to their residential adviser that they were showing symptoms, they were told to vacate the floor where Alpha Omicron Pi members live. She and others have expressed concern that the university is failing to share information with fellow students.
“One for sure has already tested positive for COVID-19,” said Gilliam. “They sent an email yesterday and it told us to pack up and be off campus by [Thursday, Sept. 10].”
According to the student, others on campus have not received updates about COVID-19 numbers at NSU, which she said is “absolutely ridiculous.” The students now under quarantine were purportedly asked by an RA to stay mum about the situation to avoid spreading panic.
“I got a message in our floor group chat from my RA, telling us to be silent about the floor quarantine,” said Gilliam. “I’m sure it wasn’t her idea; it came from housing, and it is very alarming to me that they wouldn’t be transparent about anything to all students and staff regarding COVID-19 in a time like this.”
The mother of a male NSU student also complained that although her son had tested positive for COVID-19, his roommate hadn't been told and his dorm room had not been sanitized. That incident was last week, and an NSU official said the housing department was following proper protocols.
In the midst of the pandemic, higher education institutions in Oklahoma have been left to their own discretion on how to report confirmed cases of the coronavirus. While some schools have publicly released virus statistics as confirmed cases have spiked, others have kept that information private, divulging it only to those who are directly affected.
The discrepancies have prompted Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Tina Smith and Chris Murphy to ask the Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to create reporting standards for outbreaks on college campuses.
Local students who tested positive or showed signs of the coronavirus have purportedly not had any serious health concerns. Gilliam believes, though, that NSU should have an open-minded approach about switching classes to online formats, and that failure to provide updated information to students prevents them from making informed decisions.
“If numbers are rising and they’re not switching gears, that’s a major issue,” she said. “But the major issue at hand right now is that there is no way of even knowing if switching to online is necessary due to the lack of pressing information being sent out to anyone.”
NSU public relations officials were asked Wednesday for a statement, and they said they hoped to have it available Thursday, but the Daily Press had not received that by press time.