Waynesburg prepares for coronavirus outbreak

Waynesburg University is among numerous institutions preparing for the possible spread of the coronavirus, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently advised all U.S. Institutions of Higher education to plan and prepare for the coronavirus immediately.

“As the global outbreak evolves, Institutions of Higher Education should prepare for the possibility of community-level outbreaks. Institutions of Higher Education want to be ready in the event COVID-19 does appear in their communities,” the CDC said.

This past week, Waynesburg University published an informational tab, “Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) Information,” at the top of their website to update faculty, students and staff of the university’s awareness and plan of action for the virus. 

“The key is planning and preparation; we plan for the worst and pray for the best,” James Tanda, director of Security Operations and Emergency Management said in regards to Waynesburg University’s plan of action for the spread of the coronavirus disease 2019. 

The ongoing worldwide outbreak of the novel coronavirus, an upper respiratory illness that originated in Wuhan, China, has caused alarm throughout numerous countries as it was named a “public health emergency of international concern” by the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee of the World Health Organization Jan. 30.

The virus emerged December 2019 and is believed to have been caused by animal-to-person spread with links to the large seafood and animal markets in China. Now, the virus is rapidly spreading through person-to-person contact.

On March 3, the CDC reported the virus to have spread to almost 70 international locations, including the United States, where a total of 80 cases and nine deaths due to the COVID-19 have been detected.

Looking at these statistics, Tanda said it is a concern that the coronavirus could reach Waynesburg.

“We have no idea if the coronavirus will come to Waynesburg,” Tanda said. “But given the spread of the virus from country to country and now through several states in America, health officials anticipate the potential spread across the United States like any other cold, flu or pandemic virus.”

A plan of action for Waynesburg is already in place, in case COVID-19 emerges on campus.

“As such, every two years, I update the university’s Security Operations Plan and Emergency Response Guide, which is a comprehensive plan that guides decision makers during any crisis, critical incident or emerging threat such as the COVID-19,” Tanda said. “These plans discuss in detail certain security components such as Prevention, Mitigation, Response and Recovery from any disaster or critical incident. This type of threat is no different.” 

As new updates are reported involving COVID-19, Tanda and the executive staff meet regularly to discuss the safety of the university and the increasing possibility that it could come to Pennsylvania or Waynesburg.

“We have on-going discussions with subject matter experts in the health, medical and legal fields, and draw from best-practice guidelines from the CDC, the National Institute of Health, the World Health Organization and the Federal Emergency Management Administration to ensure the best course of action for Waynesburg University and its students, staff and faculty,” he said.

Even though there is a plan of action in place, Tanda sees no reason for Waynesburg faculty, staff and students to worry; however, he recommends everyone take precautions.

“Students can protect themselves by performing good hand washing. Also, by maintaining a healthy immune system by eating a balanced diet, getting enough sleep and managing their stress,” Jennifer Dean, nurse director of Student Health Services said.

The CDC also recommends avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth, staying home when you’re sick, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces. 

In regards to traveling, the CDC recommends Institutions of Higher Education to consider postponing or canceling upcoming student foreign exchange programs. 

Waynesburg University has not canceled any upcoming study abroad trips; however, it is a possibility if the COVID-19 continues to spread.

“We are assessing each location on a case-by-case basis, based on available data. We will determine whether we will adjust current or future study abroad programming accordingly,” Waynesburg University’s informational tab explained.

According to their website, Waynesburg’s top priority is the health, safety and wellness of their students, faculty and staff; so, all further action regarding study abroad trips and the state of the school will be based on these three priorities.

“We are one of thousands of colleges, universities and schools who are dealing with this public health emergency and a virus that may in fact never come,” Tanda said. “If it does, we will be ready by calmly and steadily preparing through coordination with our local, state and federal partners including the hospitals, healthcare facilities and medical experts who are guiding this response at a national level.”


For more information on the coronavirus, please see the links below: