Over the past few months, the outbreak of the Coronavirus has affected businesses and individuals across the world. As the virus reaches the United States, local officials have made it a priority to prepare for potential threats that could surface in the Starkville community. Mississippi State University officials have developed a protocol and monitor the possibilities of the virus making an appearance on campus.
Dr. Cliff Story, director of University Health Services, outlined careful procedures faculty and higher authorities have developed to maintain the safety of the faculty and students.
“We've been monitoring what's been going on since day one since it first became news that things were happening. In the beginning, of course, we had no idea what it meant or what things would look like,” Story said.
Story said the university is working closely with state health officials to be aware of the best preventative procedures.
“Also, we’re trying to keep up with recommendations with the CVC and the Mississippi State Department of Health, so we've been in contact regularly with our state representatives from the Mississippi State Department of Health about recommendations and guidelines. Up to now, there's not really been any recommendations or any things for us to do,” Story said.
Students should remain cautious and practice hygienic procedures to remain safe but should continue to live at ease because of the lack of contamination within the state of Mississippi, Story said.
“There are no cases in Mississippi, and no one is under investigation in Mississippi for the Coronavirus. Over the last 2 weeks, especially as things have emerged, we developed a web page that people could go to that points to more information about Coronavirus and what you can do. As things have now progressed in the last week or so, only time will tell how this virus is going to spread or if it’s going to spread across the globe,” Story said.
Sid Salter, chief communications officer of MSU’s Office of Public Affairs, continues to emphasize the alert stance of MSU and the time that many administrators have put into maintaining preparedness as the outbreak continues to threaten society.
“Last week and then continuing this week, there have been a series of meetings involving the Division of Student Affairs, the University Health Services, the Student Health Center, our crisis management group, Dr. Cliff Story, General Counsel, the University Attorney, Academic Affairs, Public Affairs and others who have been meeting to discuss what the possible impacts would be and what the needs would be if we were to have an outbreak,” Salter said.
Salter, however, spoke of the effects which the virus may have on international travel and the staff or students participating in current travel abroad programs.
“What we do have because of the large number of people who are traveling internationally, we would have a reason to plan or evaluate what might happen if that did transpire in the future. We’re looking at everything that you could imagine,” Salter said. “We then look at travel, what is already contemplated in terms of student and faculty travel and how that might impact things as the Coronavirus evolves. We are monitoring the CDC and the Mississippi Department of Health to follow the guidelines that they’re putting out for travel and medical guidelines.”
Wes Foreman, an MSU alumnus currently living in South Korea, provided insight into the changes that occur when the possibility of Coronavirus contamination becomes a reality.
“I work in an academy. It’s like a small school that’s a private business, and when there was a very low number of 30 patients in Korea last week, there was an outbreak and it jumped up to about 800 in a matter of days. When it jumped like that, all the schools closed, so I haven’t been to work since last Friday,” Foreman said.
Foreman described the abandoned feel which hovers around South Korea and how quickly it has affected life itself.
“Socially, there’s nobody outside,” Foreman said. “There are very few people outside walking around. On a regular day, there might be hundreds of people within a minute outside my window, but the weather has been really cooperative the last few days, but if you look outside, there’s only a couple people at a time, so it’s completely changed the culture here.”
While Salter emphasized the university is keeping a close watch on the developing Coronavirus threat, he said there is currently no need for concern at MSU.
"What’s important to focus on now is that there is no reported case of Coronavirus at Mississippi State University and no reported case of the Coronavirus in the state of Mississippi,” Salter said.
Update: "At present, MSU is not approving travel to countries that have been issued Level 3 status by the CDC, including China and South Korea. MSU is discouraging travel to Level 2 status countries, which now include Japan, Italy and Iran," Story stated in a press release on Feb. 27.