Coronavirus response: 6.26.20: Boise State extends campus closure

Due to an increase in new coronavirus cases, Boise State University officials extended the campus closure by another week, through July 5.

In a campus-wide email sent Friday afternoon, university officials reported “approximately 20 additional positive test results with dozens more still pending.”

University officials closed campus Monday evening, after eight positive or probable coronavirus cases were linked to the campus over 48 hours.

“The decision to temporarily close campus facilities is the result of the increase in infections as well as a number of compounding factors,” university officials wrote Friday.

The spike in cases on campus coincides with a larger recent outbreak across Ada County. Citing an increase in cases, Central District Health officials Monday moved Ada County back to stage three of Idaho’s four-step reopening plan, ordering bars closed.

Local health officials are concerned about the spike in cases among young adults in their 20s who contracted the virus at bars or in public social settings.

“We have been watching these numbers rapidly rise in Ada County, and with that, our concern has grown, too,” Central District Health Director Russ Duke said Monday.

Several factors are in play, Boise State officials said Friday:

  • A high rate of infection and transmission in Boise is straining testing capacity.
  • Delays in processing test results, which means some people do not realize they are infected and contagious.
  • A lack of robust contract tracing to identify and quarantine exposed individuals.

University officials urged everyone in the campus community to help slow the spread of the virus by:

  • Maintaining physical distance of at least six feet.
  • Wearing masks or face coverings inside — and outside when distancing cannot be maintained.
  • Frequently washing hands and disinfecting common surfaces.
  • Staying off campus if you are sick, experiencing symptoms or have been exposed to COVID-19.

“In order for us to successfully return to campus, it is imperative that members of the university community adhere to the requirements in the reintegration guide,” university officials said. “If we don’t all adhere to these guidelines, infection rates will continue to rise, creating health risks for vulnerable members of our community, prolonging the campus reintegration process and jeopardizing our ability to remain on campus throughout summer and into the fall semester.”

Federal relief funding for education

Gov. Brad Little’s COVID-19 Financial Advisory Committee approved $34 million in federal CARES Act relief funding for education to support online learning Friday afternoon.

Members of the CFAC approved the State Board of Education’s request for funding in three areas:

  • $30 million to address the so-called digital divide among students and K-12 schools. Generally, the digital divide can be thought of as barriers to online education. The divide includes a lack of devices that can deliver educational lessons and no connectivity to reliable internet service.
  • $4 million for a unified digital campus for post-secondary education. The online system would give students at all eight of the state’s public colleges and universities access to a universal portal for online courses.
  • $26,600 for the Council For the Deaf and Hard of Hearing so support accessing information in American Sign Language and remote connectivity.

Members of the State Board agreed to ask for the $34 million during an eight-hour meeting June 10.

Idaho also received $37.8 million in separate CARES Act funding for higher education, much of which went to direct student aid.

Clark Corbin

About Clark Corbin

Reporter Clark Corbin has covered Idaho government and education for more than a decade. He’s followed every legislative session, gavel-to-gavel, since 2011. Clark is a co-host of the Extra Credit podcast with Kevin Richert published on Fridays. You can follow him on Twitter: @clarkcorbin. He can be reached by email at [email protected]

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