Faculty call for full virtual learning as 4 new COVID-19 clusters identified at Appalachian State

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Four new COVID-19 clusters have been identified among four residents halls at Appalachian State, according to the University’s website.

As of Thursday, there are 17 active cases in four clusters.

According to the University, there are:

  • 9 cases in Hoey residence hall. Six are recovering in active isolation and 3 are past the isolation stage.
  • 6 cases in Gardner residence hall. Three are recovering in active isolation and 3 are past the isolation stage.
  • 7 cases in Frank residence hall. Two are recovering in active isolation and 5 are past the isolation stage.
  • 5 cases in Coltrane residence hall. Four are recovering in active isolation and 1 is past the isolation stage.

The University said there is also four new positive cases associated with the active App State football team cluster, three staff members and one student-athlete.

“We’re not doing what we need to do as a campus community to mitigate the threat of the virus,” Cara Hagan, an associate professor in the department of theatre and dance, told CBS 17.

Hagan is teaching online at the university this year. Her husband, also a professor there, is teaching on campus.

“Every time he goes to campus I am worried about who he may encounter,” said

When school opened on August 17, the university reported their 7 day average was 36 daily COVID-19 cases. By Sept. 8, that went up to 55 daily cases. One month later, it has exploded to a rolling 7 day average of 217 cases.

In a statement, the university told CBS 17, “While the data this week is trending in a good direction, we are and have never been complacent.”

They provided the following data showing percent positive rates were still unsteady at the university.

  • Monday: 665 with 37 positives, 5.6% positivity rate
  • Tuesday: 161 with 10 positives, 6.2% positivity rate
  • Wednesday: 979 total tests with 32 positives, 3.4% positivity rate

Hagan is asking the university through a petition to switch to full online learning. Her petition has gained more than 500 signatures. Another petition asking for courses to move online has gained more than 1,300 signatures.

Hagan fears infected students could have impacts beyond Boone. She said the university community needs to think of out-of-the-box solutions to keeping people safe as students return home for the holidays.

“They’re going to go back to Raleigh. They’re going to go back to Wilmington. They’re going to go back to Charlotte. They’re going to go back to Winston-Salem, and they’re going to be taking with them the virus is a possibility,” she said.

Football practice has been suspended and the App State football game at Georgia Southern, which was scheduled for Oct. 14, has been postponed, the University said.

They said they are taking the following actions:

On campus:

  • We are offering on-campus students the ability to voluntarily opt-out of their housing contracts if they want to return to their hometowns.
  • We are implementing mandatory, large-scale testing in residence halls with active clusters.

Off-campus:

  • Appalachian Police are assisting local agencies patrol and respond to off-campus sites, including off-campus apartment complexes with large populations of students.
  • App State is partnering with AppHealthCare (our local public health agency) to implement community-based testing at off-campus apartment complexes with large populations of students.
Source: Appalachian State dashboard

Future data will tell if these efforts are enough.

“The unfortunate thing about it is that it’s too little too late, I think,” said Hagan.

There were 805 cases reported at the University on Monday. The total number of cases increased to 871 on Thursday. The university said 70 percent of their cases are in students who live off-campus.

The University said App State will hold a pop-up testing event on Oct. 10 in the Rivers Street Parking Deck from noon to 5 p.m.

Students, faculty and staff can walk up or drive up for a free COVID-19 test.

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