Abraham: WIU student tests positive for COVID-19

MACOMB, Ill. (NEWS3) — Western Illinois University is reporting its first case of a student contracting the coronavirus.

WIU Interim President Martin Abraham sent an email to faculty, staff and students Thursday evening alerting the campus that a WIU student has tested positive for COVID-19.

“Our thoughts are with our student, as well as others who are going through this illness or who have loved ones and friends affected,” Abraham said. “This is not a time to panic. It is; however, a time to be attentive, flexible, serious, and engaged regarding the steps we need to take as a community to care for ourselves and for one another.”

Abraham said the student has been living off campus and is currently in self-isolation. He said the student will not be able to return to campus or their normal activities until authorized by public health officials.

“University officials are working with the health department and other public health staff regarding contact tracing and other requirements,” Abraham said. “Public health authorities are identifying those who may have come in close contact with the individual.”

Abraham said the university is expecting more cases as coronavirus testing ramps up.

“As testing continues to increase and there are more positive cases reported within our county, we anticipate additional cases could affect our University,” Abraham said.

This news comes after the McDonough County Health Department reported four new COVID-19 cases Thursday, which includes two women in their 20s, a man in his 20s and a woman in her 70s. The health department has also reported three outbreaks at residential facilities in the county. Officials said one outbreak is at The Lamoine, another is at Mosaic and the latest one was reported at Heartland Health Care Center. The county now has 18 positive cases.

Abraham suggested the following tips in order to stay safe during the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Follow government mandates around travel, work, and leaving your home. If you do leave your home, you must wear a mask/face covering when in public spaces when social distancing is not an option, as required per Gov. Pritzker’s May 1 Stay at Home Order.
  • Engage in social distancing (minimum 6 feet). Remain home as much as possible.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face, eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
  • Watch for cough, troubled breathing, or other signs of respiratory infection.
  • Monitor temperature for a fever above 100.4 degrees F (38 degrees C).

Abraham said anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms (fever over 100.4 F, cough and shortness of breath) should self-isolate. Experts said most people who contract coronavirus will be able to shelter in place at home, and recover uneventfully without hospitalization. Abraham said this is especially true of traditional college age patients without underlying health conditions. He said most college-age individuals with coronavirus can expect to have little to no symptoms, or possibly develop symptoms similar to a bad cold or a case of influenza. If you develop severe symptoms such as struggling to breathe, blue lips, passing out or confusion, seek immediate medical care.

If a person in the McDonough County region is experiencing symptoms, they should call the McDonough District Hospital (MDH) nurse triage hotline at 309-836-1715 or their primary care provider. The nurse triage hotline will operate from 7 a.m.-7 p.m. The drive-thru screening station at MDH is available from 8 a.m.-8 p.m. WIU students who are living on campus or in the community can call Beu Health Center, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday at 309-298-1888. Anyone seeking health care assistance at the WIU Beu Health Center should call ahead before showing up, not walk into the center or any local health care provider or hospital without calling first.

Abraham said WIU has safety protocols in place, including daily temperature taking for anyone coming to campus, increased cleaning and disinfecting in residence halls and dining center and  social distancing measures and following the stay-at-home order in place. WIU posts the latest coronavirus updates for the school here.

WIU classes are currently online for the rest of the spring semester. WIU’s summer courses will also be online. The school’s in-person spring commencement ceremonies are canceled, so the university is slated to host a virtual graduation May 9.