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WKU President: There is No Risk-Free Environment in Era of Coronavirus

As he has said many times before, the leader of Western Kentucky University is reiterating the upcoming school year will be unlike any other in the school’s history.

During an online forum with faculty and staff on Monday, President Timothy Caboni fielded questions concerning how the campus will operate under the coronavirus pandemic.

"There is no risk-free environment," stated Caboni. "There will be COVID cases on this campus and our job is to identify them, isolate them, contract trace them as quickly as we can."

The WKU chapter of the American Association of University Professors issued a statement last week expressing concerns about testing and quarantine measures that will be in place for the fall semester.  The group stated WKU’s current plan leaves the campus community at “unnecessary risk” of contracting COVID-19. 

Dr. Caboni was asked during the forum why all incoming students won’t be required to get tested for COVID-19 before in-person classes resume on August. 

“A test is a snapshot," responded Caboni. "You only know that you are not positive at that moment and even though your test comes back negative, you may have other engagements after that test or before you arrived on campus or after you arrived on campus, where you might contract the virus.”

President Caboni added the test also has a high rate of negative results which could create a false sense of safety and complacency toward measures aimed at preventing the spread of the respiratory virus. 

The university has already reached out to students coming from coronavirus hot spots such as Texas, Arizona, and Florida requesting they self-quarantine 14 days before coming to campus. 

Caboni said WKU health plans would cover unlimited testing for faculty and staff.

WKU will offer in-person and online instruction when the fall semester begins this  month. Students learning in a traditional classroom setting will be expected to wear face masks and maintain social distancing.

University leaders say they are waiting until closer to the reopening date to make decisions about large gatherings such as games, homecoming, and commencement.  State guidelines currently limit some crowds to ten or fewer individuals.

Lisa is a Scottsville native and WKU alum. She has worked in radio as a news reporter and anchor for 18 years. Prior to joining WKU Public Radio, she most recently worked at WHAS in Louisville and WLAC in Nashville. She has received numerous awards from the Associated Press, including Best Reporter in Kentucky. Many of her stories have been heard on NPR.
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