Eastern Kentucky University has reported 88 total cases of COVID-19 since Aug. 1., according to Bryan Makinen, executive director for public safety.

As of Sept. 10, there are 46 active cases of COVID-19 at the university, with information stemming from self-reporting or from local health departments.

Despite those numbers, Makinen told the Board of Regents at their Thursday meeting, there was reduced spread with "near-complete" mask compliance. 

 “We are not currently seeing the spread of disease resulting from our in person institutional offerings,” Makinen said.

As of Sept. 10, there are 29 residential students with active cases of COVID-19. Those students are isolated or quarantined in dorms and are provided with food and checked on multiple times during their quarantine, Makinen reported. 

Regent Juan Castro sympathized with those quarantined, as he had been required to do so previously. 

“I’m not ashamed to say as a survivor of COVID-19, I know how much that isolation is purely hell but thank you for taking care of them because it’s important,” Castro said.

Makinen said 14 employees have been designated as contact tracers at EKU, and are expected to identify hot spots, clusters or activities that need to be reconfigured to protect public health. In addition, the university tracers are responsible for contacting students, faculty and staff on campus who may have been exposed to COVID-19 or have tested positive for COVID-19.

“We are the only university in Kentucky where we have a formal partnership with our health department and where we have employees who are engaged in this kind of contact tracing activity and doing so in a way that is taking burden off of the health department, but better serving the members of the EKU community,” President David McFadden said.

Karen Peavler is the contact tracing coordinator. Already, Makinen said the partnership has helped field more than 1,000 communications with students, faculty or staff.

“EKU Housing has identified quarantine and isolations on campus that are well communicated,” Makinen said. 

During his presentation, the public safety director announced the Colonels “Spring” into Action plan. This task force is similar to the fall contingency task force set up to address the coronavirus, but will focus on the back-to-school plan for the spring semester.

“Recently, they have proposed a revised spring semester calendar that is in the final stages of the approval process at this time,” Makinen said. “Each decision that has been made, from this team in particular, has the best interest of our students, faculty and staff at heart.”

He also said the Registrar Office has delayed submission of spring schedules and has allowed the collection of data to make decisions about class offerings for the spring semester.

EKU is also working to expand the accessibility of on-campus internet and study spaces for commuter students.

In other business, Director of Athletics Matt Roan announced that the home football game against Western Carolina on Nov. 21 will be in honor of Sheila Pressley, dean of the College of Health Sciences, who passed away on Jan. 24. 

Pressley was a graduate of Western Carolina.

“Because Dr. Pressley was an alum of Western Carolina, we think it is fitting that we recognize her and honor her legacy that day,” Roan said. 

Roan said EKU athletics is actively pursuing the opportunity to add a ninth or tenth game to the fall schedule.

However, Roan said the game day experience Colonels know of former seasons is going to be drastically different. 

“I would imagine tailgating is going to look very much different than it has in years past. We should have an announcement on those things in just a few days,” Roan said. 

EKU has requested Governor Andy Beshear and thenstate allow 25% capacity at football games which would allocate 4,200 seats for home games. This will allow at least 1,000 student tickets, all season ticket holders, and limited single-game tickets. 

Boxes and stadium club seating will be limited to 50% capacity.

Additionally, the cheerleading team, dance team and band will be seated in the stands this season to limit the amount of people on the field. 

In terms of testing, Roan stated student-athletes in high contact sports like basketball, football, soccer and volleyball are being tested weekly. 

Athletes in medium contact sports such as baseball, softball, beach volleyball and cross country are being tested bi-weekly.

Low contact sports like golf and track and field are conducting symptomatic testing.

Roan is expecting the basketball season to tip off on Nov. 10 but said it may be moved back to Nov. 25. Intramural sports will begin next week.

Other business: 

• Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe swore in new student regent and Student Government Association President Eyouel Mekonnen.

• Regent Alan Long was sworn in for a second term on the Board.

•Tanlee Wasson, vice president of student success, said that there are over 3,200 new undergraduate students this fall. Eighty-five percent of freshmen students are from Kentucky and 48% of freshmen are first-generation college students. Sixty-seven percent of freshmen are living in residence halls this semester. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wasson said the residential population is 18% smaller this year.

• Brian Wilcox, associate vice president for facilities services, said that EKU has spent $63,000 to date to protect students from COVID-19 in campus facilities. They have re-set over 300 classroom layouts, added germicidal wipes to 374 spaces, deployed 180 sanitizer stations, posted 9,150 signs in buildings, 229 shields measured, created and deployed and 1,335 HVAC filters replaced.

• Wilcox announced that the EKU sand volleyball complex is taking shape by Alumni Coliseum and the student recreation center. Wilcox said the project is on schedule to be completed for the start of the spring beach volleyball season.

• The bricks on the Wallace building are being repaired. Work is ongoing and students can expect construction workers in that area.

• The pedway project over Eastern Bypass has begun. The pedway will be located in front of Alumni Coliseum. Wilcox said the pedway is scheduled to be completed in June 2021.

• White Hall State Historic Site has an entirely new roof after a previous wind storm caused damage. Wilcox said that repairs from the wind storm have been completed.

• The Kit Carson Commons construction taking place across the street from the College of Justice and Safety will be providing low-income housing for single parents and veterans. 

The next regularly scheduled Board of Regents meeting is scheduled for Dec. 10. 

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