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University takes precautions in response to COVID-19

By Madison Pfeifer | March 10, 2020 1:55pm
Image provided by CDC. Canva created by Claire Desmarais.

The Beacon will be posting updates regarding COVID-19 on this page. Updates will include information pertinent to the University of Portland community.

Updated March 11 at 3:30 p.m.

UP students studying abroad in Italy return home

All 11 University of Portland students studying abroad in Italy returned to their homes after UP recommended they leave the country in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, according to Director of Studies Abroad Kallan Picha. The students returned home before Italy went on lockdown and was quarantined on March 9. There were no UP staff abroad in Italy.

None of the students were quarantined as none have exhibited symptoms, according to Picha.

UP covered the students’ return flights and the students are finishing their term online through John Cabot University, UP’s partner school in Rome.

Maddie Pfeifer (News and Managing editor) contributed to this story.

Updated March 11 at 2:48 p.m.

Oregon announces four new presumptive positive COVID-19 cases

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced Wednesday afternoon that there are four new presumptive positive COVID-19 cases in the state.

According to OHA, there is one new case each in Polk, Marion, Umatilla and Deschutes counties. None of the new cases involved travel to another country where the virus is spreading. The case in Umatilla County is a close contact with the county’s first case.

This brings the total number of cases in Oregon to 19.

Maddie Pfeifer (News and Managing editor) contributed to this story.

Updated March 11 at 10:17 a.m.

World Health Organization declares Coronavirus a pandemic 

On March 11, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared COVID-19 a pandemic. The virus has entered over 100 countries and killed more than 4,000 people. According to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, this is the first pandemic caused by a coronavirus. 

UP sister school Notre Dame suspends all in-person classes

On March 11, University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins announced that the school would be suspending all in-person classes starting March 23 until at least April 13. He added that there would be no classes the week of March 15 to give faculty time to prepare for online-only learning. University of Notre Dame is UP's "sister school" and fellow Holy Cross institution.

As of March 11, there have been no reported cases of COVID-19 at the University of Notre Dame. Jenkins also said that all university-reimbursed international travel would be prohibited through April 13. He added that commencement is still scheduled for May 15-17.

Maddie Pfeifer (News and Managing editor) contributed to this story.

Updated March 10 at 6:44 p.m.

Health Center encourages students to reach out with COVID-19 concerns

The Health Center is taking additional precautions in screening for COVID-19. All students who make an appointment will be asked if they are experiencing any symptoms of the illness. 

Students who are concerned or showing respiratory symptoms are encouraged to call the Health Center (503-943-7134) to make an appointment or ask questions, but should not walk in until an appointment is set. If students need health care after hours, they are encouraged to call the ProvRn nurse advice line (503-574-9606) or use Providence Express Care Virtual

According to Nurse Practitioner Kaylin Soldat there are some students in self-isolation out of an “abundance of caution,” but she did not specify how many. Students in self isolation have not qualified to be tested for COVID-19, but have been sick enough to justify isolation according to Soldat. Self-isolation requires that students stay who live in the dorms to stay in their rooms when possible, and if they are showing respiratory symptoms that they wear a mask when going out, according to Soldat. 

“We are trying to encourage people not to walk in, again just to decrease the exposure to the community, but if they have any symptoms, cold symptoms, flu symptoms, cough, fever, shortness of breath, to please reach out either to us or to me of the after hours services for support,” Soldat said. 

The Health Center cannot test for COVID-19. If there are suspected cases, the health department would determine what restrictions those people would need to follow and what the quarantine process would look like, Soldat said. The Health Center does have personal protective equipment in case a patient comes in who may have COVID-19, including N95 Respirators

Testing for COVID-19 is available at the Oregon State Public Health Laboratory, according to the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). Hospitals around the state are expected to conduct their own tests soon according to the OHA. 

“If we did have a student here who was determined to be someone who needed testing the health department would be involved in any sort of decisions around quarantine and cleaning. We would be taking direction from the Oregon Health Authority and from Multnomah County and following their recommendations,” Soldat said. 

The Health Center has been under pressure with the increasing number of calls and appointments. This is causing less urgent appointments, like travel physicals, to be pushed back further, Soldat said. Students are still encouraged to call with questions or concerns. 

“I would just want to emphasize that (students) do not have to triage themselves, and we’re here to support them if they have any concerns about their health,” Soldat said. “That’s why we’re here.”

Beauchamp steps up cleaning amid COVID-19 outbreak

Beauchamp Recreation and Wellness Center has stepped up cleaning of its facilities in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. 

More hand sanitizer stations and disinfectant spray bottles have been added around the facility, according to Kaitlin Bourne, recreation operations program manager. More frequent cleaning efforts from Physical Plant and Beauchamp staffers have also been requested.  According to Bourne, Beauchamp keeps a daily cleaning log to ensure that machines and equipment are disinfected every day. 

According to a New York Times article, the virus cannot spread through sweat, though gym users should be aware of frequently contacted equipment like barbells and mats. 

Staffers at Beauchamp are sanitizing equipment such as basketballs after it’s returned to the Front Desk.

“We have assigned specific 'high touch points' to be sanitized regularly by front desk workers throughout their shifts. These include: front doors (entering and exiting), front desk counters and kiosks, front desk computers (keyboards, mouse, chair arm rests), hand rails on stairs/track/courts, water fountain buttons, paper towel dispenser knob, bathroom stall locks,” Bourne said. 

Beauchamp is using a “spray bottle containing H2Orange2 — a sanitizer/virucide that kills 99.9% of viruses,” Bourne said. It’s the same disinfectant that Physical Plant uses. 

As of now, all fitness classes will continue as scheduled. However, Bourne said that there might be adjustments depending on size. 

As always, Bourne is encouraging gym users to continue wiping down machines, mats and equipment after each use. 

Bon App limits contact points

In light of recent COVID-19 outbreaks, dining halls on campus are implementing new procedures in an attempt to mitigate risk of transmission through food handling.

by Brennan Crowder / The Beacon

Bon Appetit is also increasing safety/health measures in light of the COVID-19 outbreak. Bon App is trying to limit hand to hand contact points as much as possible. Workers are wearing gloves, not handing receipts back and forth with students and using more disposable boxes for food. 

According to Bon App Superviser Kirk Mustain, Bon App is increasing the frequency of cleanings and has purchased more sterilization chemicals. They also have contingency plans in place like consolidating what food services are open to eliminate points of contact if needed. Workers are also encouraged to stay home if they feel sick.

Bon App says they’re preparing for a potential school shut down and have had discussions about plans to get food to students who might be quarantined in dorms and they are stocking up on paper boxes in the basement of the Commons. However, Bon App does not have any knowledge of the likelihood of a shut down.

According to Mustain, there are around 7,300 interactions in food services on any given day whether it be with money, food, plates and cups, or silverware. The main focus for Bon App right now is to limit contact points and ramp up cleaning measures.

Maddie Pfeifer (News and Managing editor), Claire Desmarais (Editor-in-Chief), Austin De Dios (Reporter) and Mia Werner (Reporter) contributed to this story.

Updated March 10 at 4:08 p.m.

Campus takes precautions in response to COVID-19

The University of Portland is taking precautions in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. From some classes going completely online to new safety measures in residence halls, UP is making changes around campus.

Some professors opt into online classes, though university remains open

While the university currently remains open, some professors have opted to hold their classes online for the time being. According to an email from School of Nursing Instructor Lori Chorpenning, students in Nursing 207 (Clinical Reasoning Seminar: Health Assessment) had class online Monday because their classroom was “too small to allow for social distancing of 3 feet between students.” 

The School of Nursing is also adapting its clinicals.

“Students in clinical are not permitted to care for patients that are in airborne isolation or in cases that call for the use of N-95 mask or an air respirator system,” an email to all nursing students in clinicals said. 

Despite some classes going online only, the university has remained open. Because of this, some students have created and signed a petition to cancel all on-campus classes.

Event cancellations and modifications

Some on-campus events have also been canceled or changed in response to COVID-19. The Northwest Undergraduate Conference on Literature (NUCL) was supposed to take place March 14 but was canceled due to the outbreak of the virus. 

Author Brittney Cooper was supposed to be on campus Friday, March 13 to give a keynote address on black women in U.S. politics. Now, she will give her address virtually to avoid traveling. 

University increases prevention strategies

The university is also taking preventative measures in residence halls. Director of Residence Life Andrew Weingarten says Residence Life is working to educate students on prevention strategies. This includes social distancing of three feet and washing hands regularly. He added that there has been extra attention given to cleaning highly-touched surfaces such as door knobs, elevator buttons and bathrooms.

Popular Wednesday night event Espresso UP will also increase safety measures. According to Director of Espresso UP Lauren Kerr, student baristas will not take personal cups during the event and will not have espresso beans out on the tables for students to take. Baristas will also use hand sanitizer frequently and wipe down the tables and stations with Clorox throughout the night.

On-campus Mass has also been modified. During Mass, the Eucharist will still be offered but wine will not be, and the congregation is encouraged to not make physical contact during the sign of peace or the Our Father.

Maddie Pfeifer (News and Managing editor), Claire Desmarais (Editor-in-Chief), Austin De Dios (Reporter), Dora Totoian (Opinion Editor and Reporter) and Jennifer Ng (Photographer) contributed to the story. 

Updated March 10 at 1:15 p.m.

Multnomah County has first case of COVID-19

The Oregon Health Authority (OHA) announced a Multnomah County resident has tested presumptive positive for COVID-19. This is the first presumptive case in Multnomah County.

This brings the total number of presumptive cases in Oregon to 15, spanning across seven counties. The Multnomah County resident is being treated at Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center and has had no known contact with a previously confirmed case and has not traveled from a country where the virus is spreading. Based on this information, OHA says the case is "being investigated a community-acquired case."

Maddie Pfeifer is the News and Managing Editor for The Beacon. She can be reached at