Northeast Community College outlines measures to deal with Coronavirus outbreak

March 17th, 2020 | Chris Cottrell

NORFOLK, Neb. – As an institution with a mission that says it is dedicated to the region it serves, Northeast Community College is continually working to ensure that the safety and security of its students, faculty, staff and guests. This has been most evident with the on-going developments regarding COVID-19 (Coronavirus).

As of Monday, there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Norfolk or Madison County.

Northeast administration has been working on developing actions on the impact COVID-19 is having on the operations of the College based on the safety and health of its students and employees.

At a news conference at the City of Norfolk offices featuring representatives of several agencies and organizations on Monday, Leah Barrett, president, said Northeast has extended winter break for students only through Sunday, March 22. Students and faculty were on winter break last week. Also, all activities and events in all Northeast facilities at all locations have been cancelled through March 22.

“Northeast Community College has moved from a monitoring posture to one of planning for how the College may respond to minimize exposure to our students, faculty, and staff if such actions become warranted,” she said. “We have developed a COVID-19 Strike Force Team with multiple planning levels that has been meeting to develop plans for continuing instructional and operational activities.”

Strike Force Team members, made up of staff who work in all aspects of the college, continue to monitor the situation and communicate with students, faculty, and staff.

Dr. Michele Gill, interim vice president of educational services, said both full-time and part-time faculty are being asked to prepare to offer courses in alternate formats.

“We have a robust system in our learning management platform to deliver our quality instruction to our students,” Gill said. “Northeast has some of the most talented folks that I have the pleasure to work and they are expert faculty who will be able to accommodate educating our students.”

All Northeast-sponsored dual credit classes and Fridays @ Northeast classes are cancelled through March 20.

Faculty are working this week to adjust the format of their courses in the context of community mitigation strategies, such as asynchronous and on-line learning, social distancing, enhanced sanitization .All Northeast events and activities and those that are being held at any one of the Colleges locations by external groups are suspended through March 22. This includes the annual Northeast Scholastic Contest and Quiz Bowl that was scheduled on Wednesday.

Northeast residence halls and food service on the Norfolk campus will remain open for international students and for students whose students are out of state or students who live outside the immediate region.

Barrett said the College will allow students to live in the residence halls if it is the place they can maintain their own health and safety.

“If a student is from the area, we ask them to continue to live at home as we work together to mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus,” she said. “If classes do resume next week, we will provide the academic programming in a variety of formats following the aforementioned community mitigation strategies.”

Northeast Community College has already taken a pro-active step to cleaning facilities while students have been away during winter break. Brian Paulsen, director of safety and emergency preparedness, said the College maintenance and custodial staff started a two-stage cleaning procedure a month ago.

“We have been ahead of the curve for all areas with everything getting cleaned with a disinfectant and then come back and completely wipe the areas down again with another solution. This process will continue until we receive word that this is no longer warranted.”

Paulsen said it is important to prepare for this situation the same way one would prepare for any similar transmitted illness.

“People should take steps that can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses such as washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, use alcohol-based hand sanitizer when soap may not be an option, and clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces when necessary. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands and avoid people you know who are sick. It’s normal commonsense hand-hygiene etiquette.”

He offers this additional advice. “Stay home when you are sick or are not feeling well.”

All Northeast locations in Norfolk, Ainsworth, Hartington, O’Neill, South Sioux City and West Point, are following guidelines established by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Elkhorn Valley Public Health Department, and the North Central Public Health District.

Barrett said a landing page on the Northeast website has been created that provides communication updates, information, and resources regarding how the College is responding to this situation.

“As this is a rapidly evolving matter, I have asked our employees and students to check regularly for updates so they can stay informed.”

Barrett said Northeast Community College is proud to join force with community partners, healthcare professionals and educational leaders to do what it can do to make the community safe for everyone.

“We will remain vigilant with the ongoing situation and will notify the college community of any additional changes to the plan to prevent the spread of COVID-19 or other illnesses. I want to reassure students, faculty, staff and the community that we will continue to monitor and respond rapidly as we move forward.”


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