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JMU reports at least 390 COVID-19 cases, most cases from off-campus social gatherings

Published: Aug. 31, 2020 at 11:32 PM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - Less than a week after classes started, James Madison University is reporting at least 390 positive COVID-19 cases between students, faculty and staff.

Over half of those positive cases were reported from Aug. 28 to Aug. 30.

Caitlyn Read, a spokesperson with the university said that the Virginia Department of Health and the University Health Center are contact tracing these cases, and the common factor of many is off-campus social gatherings.

“Majority of our students are doing the right thing. We have so many students that are making responsible choices, they’re following all the guidance, they’re taking this seriously,” Read said. “Unfortunately, with this disease, it just takes a few students making the wrong choices that can make for a really rapid spread.”

Read said the university will continue to stress to students not to go to or host social gatherings.

On the other hand being social, like joining clubs and making friends, is a major factor in attending college.

All university clubs and organizations are encouraged to meet virtually, including Monday night at Student Org Night.

“We’re using a platform where our student organizations can have a “booth” and people can visit them, talk to them and learn more, so we still want to make sure that our students are able to engage and meet new people, we just have to be a little bit more creative,” Kaitlin Griffith, the Director of Student Life at JMU, said.

Jim McConnell, the Associate Vice President for Student Life and Involvement, says many departments are having much smaller, in-house events around campus to allow people to connect in a safe and socially distanced environment.

“We just have a lot of small connecting type [events], so it really is a campus-wide effort, and those things are posted on social media and an app called Guidebook so people can look them up and figure out when they’re occurring and how to get involved,” McConnell said.

Organizations must follow the university’s Return to Campus Protocol for events, as well.

At this point, Read said the university is not aware that any students, faculty, or staff have been hospitalized due to COVID-19.

She said classes will continue in-person for now.

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