At its most recent meeting, the University’s coronavirus task force discussed how to best prepare if or when Alabama and Auburn see its first cases of COVID-19.
Joanna Sztuba-Solinska, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences and an expert in virology, is a member of the task force and told The Plainsman that the group is meeting once a week, coordinating plans and procedures. Around 30 people attend the more than two-hour-long task force meetings held in the public safety building, she said.
Some initiatives that have been agreed upon by the task force include putting more hand sanitizing stations around campus and distributing “care packages” to students that will include hand sanitizer and tissue, Sztuba-Solinska said.
She said University officials told task force members that they had 1,000 of these care packages, but they plan to make another 5,000.
The University is also planning to distribute more crews to clean bathrooms and classrooms more often and more quickly, Sztuba-Solinska said.
What Sztuba-Solinska emphasized most at the meeting, and what she’s telling every student who asks what they can do to prepare, is to get a flu shot.
“We are observing right now another spike of flu infections,” Sztuba-Solinska said.
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If people in Auburn were to get the flu and coronavirus, it would be “disastrous,” she said.
“Getting a flu shot is the most important thing right now,” Sztuba-Solinska said.
Auburn recently asked all faculty members to “deliver at least one class period remotely during the week of March 16” in order to gauge how well prepared the University is at handling a possible campus-wide closure caused by a potential spread of the coronavirus, according to an email sent by provost Bill Hardgrave to faculty and obtained by The Plainsman.
The email follows the University’s recent decision to suspend all spring 2020 study abroad programs, including those that were scheduled for spring break, and its recall of all students who were already abroad this semester. Those students were strongly urged by the University to remain in self-quarantine at their respective homes and not come to campus.
Sztuba-Solinska said there’s “no panic” at task force meetings, adding that she feels “reassured” because everyone “knows what they’re doing.”
One of the task force’s main objectives, she said, is getting to May without a campus-wide closure.
“If we can get that, we succeeded,” Sztuba-Solinska said. “If we can’t, we know we have precautions we can take.”
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