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WKU president discusses start of semester amid pandemic

Published: Aug. 18, 2020 at 10:34 PM CDT
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BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - On Tuesday, 13 news was able to talk one-on-one with WKU President Dr. Tim Caboni about classes starting August 24.

“We’ve had hundreds if not thousands of people working to get us to this moment,” Dr. Caboni said.

Students will go to in-person classes if they choose. Several precautions will be in place as they make their way around campus.

With the first day less than one week away, students have already started moving in. Those coming from states deemed “hot spots” were asked to quarantine for two weeks at home before returning to WKU’s campus.

“We’re confident that those folks quarantined in their houses,” Dr. Caboni said, “we’re really fortunate 80 percent of our students come from about an hour and a half drive.”

Other Universities such as the University of Kentucky required students to be tested for COVID-19 before returning to campus. Dr. Caboni said he consulted with the health department before making a decision to not partake in mass testing for WKU students.

”Testing everyone was only good for that moment. When you take a test, all you really know is that you’re not positive the day you take that test,” Dr. Caboni explained.

Graves Gilbert Clinic on Western’s campus is offering free COVID-19 testing for students. The president is encouraging anyone to get a test especially if they are symptomatic, but also if they are asymptomatic and feel as if they have been exposed or want to know for sure if they have the virus.

A COVID-19 outbreak among students is always a possibility. Students at the University of North Carolina have already had to resort to remote learning because of the pandemic. 13 News asked Dr. Caboni what it would take for WKU to have to go to all-online classes again.

“There is not one number that would cause us to flip a light switch on or off.” Dr. Caboni said.

Right now, the University plans to either ease up or tighten restrictions based on number of cases, ability to quarantine, ability to contact trace, availability of P.P.E., hospital capacity etc.

If a student tests positive, and has exposed other classmates or people on campus, the Barren River District Health Department will be responsible for contact tracing those attending the university.

“In cooperation with Barren River Health, we’ll help them get to those students as they contact trace,” Dr. Caboni explained.

Common areas will look different around campus as well. Per state guidelines, students, faculty and staff will be required to wear a face covering and social distance in public spaces. Dr. Caboni also said dining areas will operate differently.

“You’re not going to be able to serve yourself. Everything will either be served to you, or lots of grab-and-go options,” Dr. Caboni said.

The president and other University officials are also going to monitor for off campus gatherings or parties.

“If individuals choose to do that, the consequences will be quick and they will be severe,” Caboni said, “I don’t want to be that guy. But, the reality is we have a responsibility to our entire community to stay safe, to wear a mask and to not gather in large groups.”

Virtual M.A.S.T.E.R Plan starts on Thursday, as students continue moving in throughout the week.

“Even in the midst of a pandemic, I’m really proud of the work we’ve done to bring in this first year class, the class of 2024. Let’s hope it’s the only class we have to bring in during COVID-19.”

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