Boise State closed to general public after staffer tests positive for coronavirus

(UPDATED: 5 p.m., with latest coronavirus case numbers.)

Boise State University has closed to the public Friday afternoon following the university’s first confirmed coronavirus case.

In a news release Friday afternoon, Boise State said “a member of the campus community” has tested positive for the coronavirus. The case involves a university staff member, spokesman Greg Hahn said Friday afternoon.

The university issued some information about the staff member’s recent whereabouts.

“Individuals who visited the Administration Building or the Rec Center on Friday, March 13, 2020, may have come into contact with the individual who tested positive,” the university said in its release. “Though the risk is low, anyone who experiences symptoms of COVID-19 should alert their health care provider that they may have been in contact with an infected individual.”

In a letter to the university community Friday, Boise State Vice President for Advancement Matt Ewing wrote “the campus has closed to the general public as a health safety precaution.” (The full letter appears below.)

The university’s Department of Public Safety learned of the positive test result Friday, and sent out an emergency alert to students, faculty and staff around midday Friday.

The news comes as Boise State has moved its instruction online, for the remainder of the spring semester. On Thursday, the university announced plans to close campus buildings to the public.

This is at least the third positive coronavirus case to affect Idaho’s higher education community. On Tuesday, health officials announced that a BYU-Idaho student had tested positive for coronavirus. On Saturday, Idaho State University announced that a student on its Meridian campus had tested positive, after attending a conference in New York City. The ISU student was Idaho’s first confirmed coronavirus case, announced by state officials March 13.

At 5 p.m. Friday, the state’s official coronavirus website reported the number of confirmed statewide cases increased from 23 to 31 since the numbers were last updated Thursday afternoon. The Friday count includes 19 cases in Blaine County, four in Ada, three in Kootenai, and one each in Canyon, Twin Falls, Madison, Teton and Fremont counties.

On Thursday Little also announced Idaho’s first community spread of the contagious virus, in Blaine County.

Letter to Boise State community

Here’s the letter sent Friday, by Boise State Vice President for Advancement Matt Ewing:

As many of you know, on the advice of the federal and state health and government leaders, Boise State University leadership made the difficult but necessary decision last week to move all classes to remote learning for the remainder of the 2020 spring semester as a safety measure for public health during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation.

With 60 percent of the semester already behind us, we are confident our innovative faculty are developing meaningful and effective ways to deliver the highest quality education and keep students on track for their academic goals.

Students have moved to online learning, and the campus has closed to the general public as a health safety precaution. The university is assisting in the relocation efforts, when needed, with some students whose primary residence is on campus. Other daily activities such as research continues in a safe and guided manner.

The Boise State COVID-19 response website provides information on how the university is managing this rapidly-changing situation in the best interest for the health and wellbeing of the community.

Some of you have expressed concerns and an interest in helping displaced students or those who need help with unforeseen expenses. Our Dean of Student’s Emergency Fund is one area where donors, like you, can help support students who don’t have access to the needed resources during this time.

The Associated Students of Boise State University (ASBSU) Food Pantry located on campus is an incredible resource for many students who face food insecurity in their regular lives. The pantry remains open as we have seen a growing number of requests for the need of the food pantry. We anticipate this need will increase as restaurants close. Pantry staff members have begun pre-packing bags of groceries for students to pick up. We also need donations and financial support to continue this resource for the unforeseen future.

While any disruption can be challenging for faculty, staff or students, this time is also an exceptional opportunity for us to learn how to more creatively deliver our curriculum, how to more innovatively conduct research, how to better support the most vulnerable and how we all can better serve mankind.

We also want to make sure you — members of our Bronco family are safe, have access to current CDC information, and don’t feel alone or isolated. To ensure Broncos stay connected, we’ve opened the Bronco Family Chat and on the Boise State Alumni and Friends social media channels where you will find tips from other Broncos on how to be productive in remote work settings, healthy ideas for your home and family, or simply a place to share stories of inspiration with other Broncos. We look forward to seeing you on the Bronco Family Chat pages and please, share your ideas — that’s why we created it for you.

On behalf of all of us here at Boise State University, stay well and please keep in touch with your Bronco family. Thank you for all that you do for Boise State.

Go Broncos!

Kevin Richert

Kevin Richert

Senior reporter and blogger Kevin Richert specializes in education politics and education policy. He has more than 30 years of experience in Idaho journalism. He is a frequent guest on "Idaho Reports" on Idaho Public Television and "Idaho Matters" on Boise State Public Radio. Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinRichert. He can be reached at [email protected]

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