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LHU virus mitigation working

Face to face to continue

LOCK HAVEN — Lock Haven University began its fall semester last month and it has been able to keep its COVID-19 numbers manageable as it looks to continue face-to-face instruction, it was announced at the LHU Board of Trustees’ meeting on Friday afternoon.

The meeting was held in-person and masks were required, though a few members opted to join the call via Zoom.

“We are under a mask mandate for all indoor activities and we have been incredibly fortunate that the infection incident rate on our campus has been exceedingly low,” said LHU president Dr. Bashar Hanna. “Much, much credit goes to our team in the student health center because without their hard work and the cooperation of our students, faculty and staff, the cases would be far higher than they are.”

Hanna said that the indoor masking policy is necessary to keep the case count low and campus doors open.

“We hope that continuing with this high level of alert and being masked indoors (that) we can finish the semester the way we started — in person,” Hanna said.

He also thanked faculty and staff for their patience through the “last 20 months.”

Vice president Dr. Ron Darbeau echoed Hanna’s comments.

“It is a tremendous pleasure to be able to walk around the campus and to see faculty and staff and most especially, our students,” Darbeau said. “It gives me a great deal of joy to witness that and experience it.”

According to Darbeau, students and staff have done an admirable job with the COVID-19 mitigation measures, which include masking in university buildings and social distancing, when applicable.

“I want to thank our faculty and staff and our students for leaning into the necessary work to keep the campus safe. I think we distinguished ourselves with this last year and we continue to do so. I think everyone understands the importance of following the indoor mitigation practices so that we can remain face-to-face through the semester,” Darbeau said.

Darbeau credited Dr. Beth McMahon, professor emeretia, for her leadership in keeping the campus safe throughout the pandemic and utilizing a plethora of students to assist with COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.

Deana Hill, Chief Administration and Finance Officer, spoke at length about the mitigation numbers and offered a closer look at the number of students who have tested positive thus far this semester.

“We are fortunate to be sitting at an active .5 percent positivity rate at this time. This really is the direct result of many efforts from faculty, coaches and staff across all divisions,” Hill said.

She pointed out that student affairs staff performed the “heavy lift” involving quarantine and isolation of on-campus students. Students who tested positive or were quartantined were given meal delivery and “everything they need” while they were in isolation.

Hill pointed out that COVID-19 has given the university a chance to expand its partnerships throughout the community as far as vaccinations and testing are concerned.

“We have the good fortune of having one of five COVID strike teams that the Pennsylvania Department of Health has provided across the Commonwealth,” Hill noted.

The 12-member team is deployed to areas with low vaccination rates, rising transmission rates and lack of sufficient public testing locations, she said. Lock Haven was assigned a team by the DOH.

“We are using that team to implement our robust testing program not only on campus but to expand to a public testing site to the community,” Hill said.

Hill said that LHU will continue to try to promote vaccination education throughout the campus community as the the university aims to remain open for face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the fall semester.

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