1,800 students still on Louisiana campuses despite pandemic
BATON ROUGE, La. — More than 1,800 students are living on university campuses around Louisiana even though they’ve been taking classes online and have been encouraged to return home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, The Advocate reports.
The students, from 650 at Louisiana State University, 310 at Louisiana Tech and 50 or 60 at Tulane University to six at Grambling State and four at Northwestern State, have a wide variety of reasons for remaining.
Those range from home being a state or country that’s become COVID-19 hotspot to home being a place to avoid because of abusive or drug-ridden families, officials say.
“Sometimes people have nowhere else to go,” said Catherine David, LSU Residential Life’s associate director of communications and development.
One of those stranded by an epidemic in her home country is Gabriela Gomez, 27, of the Dominican Republic. The Caribbean island nation has more than 13,000 confirmed cases of the disease caused by the virus and more than 400 deaths. The U.S. embassy there has warned citizens to avoid international travel.
“I considered going back home. But my country’s borders are still closed,” said Gomez, who is working on her doctorate in flute. “It’s been nice to be able to stay here until we figure something out.”
She also couldn’t stay with relatives in New York, which leads the nation in COVID-19 deaths and cases per capita, or with friends in Texas, which called from March 29 to May 1 for Louisiana travelers to quarantine themselves for 14 days.
Gomez and her roommate, oboist Jana Zilova, 29 signed leases to stay at LSU all summer. Zilova is from the Czech Republic, another country with high rates of COVID-19.
LSU consolidated students from dormitories into campus apartments, giving students their own bedrooms and bathrooms, David said.
Custodians are assigned specific rooms, and students who don’t want anyone coming in can choose to do their own cleaning.
Pandemic rules include no guests, no gatherings and 24-hour quiet hours.
Other schools have similar rules, but they can’t guarantee safety.
At Tulane, where about 250 students stayed in campus housing through the end of the spring semester, a housing official said two students were quarantined for possible COVID-19. Both were released after their tests came back negative. In the meantime, nurses checked on them and school employees dropped off meals.
The Louisiana Department of Health does not track COVID-19 cases by college affiliation, a spokesperson said. As of Tuesday, the 38,000-plus cases and 2,596 deaths reported statewide included 5,261 cases and nine deaths among Louisiana residents aged 18-29.
Institutions may not be aware of student cases unless the students report their sickness to the school, the newspaper noted.
For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up within weeks. For some, especially older adults and those with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness and be life-threatening.
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