JMU sending students home is ‘the worst thing they can do,’ according to health officials


(WAVY) — As James Madison University tells students to pack it up, the nation’s leading COVID-19 authority, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed college shutdowns Wednesday morning on NBC’s Today show.

“[Sending them home is] the worst thing you could do. Keep them at the university in a place that’s sequestered enough from the other students, but don’t have them go home because they could be spreading it in their home state,” he said.

Chesapeake Health Department Epidemiologist Lisa Engle echoed that sentiment.

“It is the worst thing you can do and that’s what I’ve been saying, too,” she said. “That’s the wrong move. It’s the wrong move. You’re just going to spread it and this is just going to continue.”

A petition asking JMU President Jonathan Alger to allow students to stay on campus already had more than 5,000 signatures Wednesday morning. Many students and parents who signed it cited concerns about bringing the virus back home.

Engle’s advice for JMU would be to set up a dorm for the sick, and require others to quarantine if they’ve been exposed.

10 On Your side received this response from James Madison University spokesperson Caitlyn Read:

The university will not be sending home students who have COVID-19 and are in isolation, or those who have had close contact with a person confirmed to have COVID-19, and are currently quarantining. Those students have been instructed to finish out their prescribed time in either isolation or quarantine here in Harrisonburg before returning home. By sending home our healthy students we are reducing the population present in our campus residence halls, where the virus could otherwise spread rapidly. We are also recommending that all students quarantine for 14 days when they return home to help reduce the likelihood of viral spread to new communities.

The rest of the students need to be gone by Monday.

Here’s what Engle recommends to families picking up students: “Limit who goes to pick them up and — even though this sounds crazy ’cause people want to think their family is not an issue or concern — you wear a mask and, if possible, have windows rolled down.”

She also suggests sitting as far apart as possible.

Once home she says, students should isolate from the rest of the family for 14 days.

Current CDC guidance is to only test those with symptoms, so, Engle says don’t run out and get a test right away. A test is only good for that day, and symptoms can appear up to two weeks after exposure.

If you still feel well after 14 days, Engle said you should be fine.

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