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The university knew it couldn't avoid the virus entirely, but is keeping it contained

PMG FILE PHOTO - On Sept. 17, George Fox University posted a message to community members on social media announcing its first positive COVID-19 cases on campus.

Given the nature of college campuses and the prominence of the virus in the state, officials at George Fox University figured some COVID-19 cases were likely as the school year progressed and they prepared for that eventuality by setting up a variety of protocols. Now, as the calendar flips from September to October, the university is monitoring its first handful of cases while taking steps to make sure the virus does not continue to spread.

On Sept. 17, the university posted a message to community members on social media announcing its first positive COVID-19 cases on campus. Whether these individuals are students, staff or both remains to be seen and will be kept private for the time being, but the number was announced at "fewer than five" positive cases.

Neither the exact number nor any specific information about the cases will be released until the number infected in the GFU community eclipses five. That number has remained unchanged in the weeks since the announcement, according to Rob Felton , GFU director of executive communication.

"We report our cases to our community every Thursday," Felton said. "As of Sept. 24, we continued to be at 'fewer than 5.' We were asked by Yamhill County Public Health to not share details of the cases because of privacy concerns and we will continue to follow their guidance."

GFU has isolation areas set up for students who contract the virus and various methods of reporting contact with an infected person so students and staff can protect themselves. The full breadth of information for GFU students and faculty on COVID-19 and the school's approach can be found at www.GeorgeFox.edu.

Until the outbreak is considered contained, students and those in the community are encouraged to be vigilant of who they've interacted with and to stay home if symptomatic. If the county determines through contact tracing that an otherwise healthy person has been in contact with an infected person, they may have already contacted them in recent weeks.

Either way, privacy will be of high importance for the university as it seeks to address these cases and keep them under five.

"One benefit of maintaining this privacy is we maintain the trust of the infected individuals who we rely upon to conduct effective contact tracing," Felton said. "If a student didn't trust we would protect their privacy, he or she might not come forward with information about their illness or their interactions."


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