Health director placing faith in adjusted planning as ECU students return

ECU officials say they have learned from fall semester outbreaks and adapted
Published: Jan. 13, 2021 at 8:18 PM EST
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GREENVILLE, N.C. (WITN) - ECU students will be back in the classroom Tuesday, bringing thousands of students into a county already designated red on the state’s COVID-19 danger scale.

Health officials are hoping the virus won’t take control as quickly this semester as it did in the fall.

“It would be disingenuous on my part to say that this doesn’t give me a little bit of heartburn,” said Pitt County Health Director Dr. John Silvernail.

He is placing faith in the school’s planning.

“I know ECU is taking steps to try to control some of the off-campus social activities that led to spread in the fall semester.” He is also hoping the susceptible population won’t be as large this time around.

“I think that many of these students have already had it. Most of them would not have been vaccinated yet, but many of them would have immunity based on prior disease,” he explained.

Many students are just as excited to be on campus. Some, for the first time.

“I did my last term of high school online and it was very hard for me to focus,” said incoming freshman Sofia Carey.

Carey is one of the 200-plus Pirate freshmen who were accepted ahead of the fall semester but deferred their start date to spring.

“I think as long as everyone wears their masks and classes and everything, It should be okay. I’m not too worried.

Carey came a long way from the Bahamas to Greenville, and her family is hoping things stay under control.

“We’re worried about her being far from home: the insurance, the hospitals, local hospitals and they get crowded if there’s an outbreak again,” said her father.

ECU leaders say they’re not taking any chances this time around. “We have made some adjustments to make sure that we have a much better shot at being on campus all of the spring semester,” said Stephanie Whaley, ECU’s director of undergraduate admissions.

One thing Whaley says school administration learned from the fall semester was that they needed far more space for quarantining students. With that in mind, she says they have closed a number of buildings on campus for that express purpose.

“They want to be on campus and engage, interact with each other,” said Whaley, “so we’re excited to give them, especially incoming freshmen, somewhat of a college experience.”

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