USC, Clemson presidents address inevitable COVID-19 cases, how they’ll respond

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COLUMBIA/CLEMSON, S.C. (WSPA) – The presidents of both the University of South Carolina and Clemson spoke on Wednesday about COVID-19 and their plans to keep their students and faculty safe as they return to class.

“I believe that we are prepared for the predictable cases that will occur when you bring 35,000 students together,” President of USC Bob Caslen said. “Our cases will spike and decline over the semester and we know this.”

When it comes to COVID-19, those at USC said they’ve been gearing up for a safe re-opening since March.

“Our focus will not be on the numbers, because the vast majority of these will be mild or asymptomatic and, therefore, may warrant isolation or quarantine, but not require significant or any medical care.”

USC President Bob Caslen said their biggest focus will be on limiting the spread of the virus to the community.

He said the university has already put several safety measures in place to, hopefully, help them achieve that goal.

“We put cameras on campus in certain locations–particularly where foot traffic would collapse into a small area,” he said. “So, we put cameras there to monitor masks and separation, particularly in closed-in areas.”

President Caslen said he understands many are concerned about off-campus house parties and social gatherings at bars and restaurants, and he said that’s why they’re partnering with the community in an effort to keep everyone safe.

In fact, they’ve come up with a pledge for students, faculty, and community members.

“Pledge to be a responsible person within the community. I am going to behave responsibly and I am going to hold others accountable,” he said.

President Caslen told 7 News that if students do not match the behavior needed to stay safe, the university will not hesitate to switch to learning fully online like they did back in March.

“We cannot become complacent because complacence means, normally, a drop in standards, and our standard is to have masks and separate everywhere we go,” he said.

USC told us they required students to be tested before moving in to residence halls.

If a student tests positive while on campus, they’ll be placed in a designated isolation area, and the university expects that to happen.

“We’ll have the highest percentages of South Carolina resident students in recent history,” Caslen said.

Over at Clemson, they’re testing out and hoping to launch a new app that–if signed up for–students and staff would be alerted if they’ve come into contact with someone who’s tested positive for the virus.

“If I, personally, had been exposed, I would want to be notified,” Clemson President Jim Clements said.

President Clements said he’s hoping this new optional app will help to stop the spread of the virus and allow students to stay on campus rather than return to online learning.

“This app will be an additional tool in the tool box that we will use–combined with a robust testing strategy–to help our university open in a safe manner, and, more importantly, to stay open,” Clements said.

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