Breaking: Dean Pearson addresses coronavirus concerns on SGA floor

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Marianna Bacallao

Dean of Students Doug Pearson addresses students' concerns over COVID-19 on the SGA senate floor.

At a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting on March 9, Dean of Students Douglas Pearson answered students’ and parents’ most frequently asked questions about how Mercer plans to handle a potential COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. 

“The university has been monitoring this,” Pearson said. “We’ve been talking about this ever since it came on the radar screen. We’re following CDC guidelines, but I wanted you to know that today we’re taking a couple different actions.”

What action has Mercer taken so far? 

“We talked to Nationals … you’re going to be seeing them around campus, especially on touch points, doorknobs and things like that. We’ve asked them to increase their cleaning around the campus. Food services have gone back and looked at how they’re distributing food … They’ve looked at their processes and tightened them up,” Pearson said. 

What happens if a student gets sick?

“If someone becomes symptomatic, they should call the health center,” Pearson said. “Notice I said they should call over there … so they can prepare.”

If a student does show up at the student health center with symptoms, Pearson said that they have created an “isolation room” to accommodate walk-ins, but it’s always safer to call in advance. 

“All these health care facilities are saying, let us know you’re coming in advance,” Pearson said. “It’s all about trying to contain the spread.” 

What happens if a student contracts coronavirus and cannot go home? 

“If it’s just temporary, we’ll try to work something out. I don’t want to share the details because it could change, but we’re looking at identifying some spots on campus. Not in the resident halls, at this point, but a way where we can put students for short term or even a longer term if necessary, if they cannot go home,” Person said. “But our goal is to get them home, get them where people can keep an eye on them.”

How is the university handling students who traveled to a Level 3 country over spring break? 

Before classes resumed this week, the university sent out an email to all Macon campus students that urged those who “travelled to countries that are listed as a CDC Warning Level 3 Travel Health Notice for COVID-19” to “consult with Dr. Pearson before returning to campus and beginning classes.” Those countries include China, Iran, Italy and South Korea. 

“We’re asking them to self-isolate,” Pearson said. “We’re making academic accommodations. It does not mean that those students are contagious, it just means we’re asking them to self-isolate and stay at home … just to be on the safe side.”

What will happen to students who traveled to a Level 3 country and didn’t report?

Pearson told SGA that he would need their help to identify students who didn’t report, and that they could do so anonymously. 

“They’re not in trouble,” Pearson said. “This is about containment and trying to be precautionary and safe on campus. If you have somebody, let me know. I’ll follow up with them.” 

Have any other questions? 

Pearson said he’ll be hosting a public question-and-answer session in the Connell Student Center lobby on March 11 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. 

“I’m planning right now to maybe be in front of the cafeteria on Wednesday during the big day at the cafeteria, maybe with someone from the health center to answer questions from students,” Pearson said. “Everybody’s got their own questions. I will make myself available then.”

Mercer University President Bill Underwood will be providing further information to the student body in an email later on Tuesday, according to Vice President for Marketing Communications and Chief of Staff Larry Brumley. The Cluster will update this page when that information becomes available.