Sac State president announces no campus closure despite Sacramento coronavirus patient

Nelsen addresses health guidelines, racism


Rahul Lal

Sac State President Robert Nelsen talks about AB 1460 to members of the Faculty Senate and demonstrators in the Green & Gold Room in Sac State’s University Union Feb. 27. Sacramento State students will receive up to $850 in direct payments for COVID-19 pandemic assistance, Sac State President Robert Nelsen said in a SacSend email Thursday.

Chris Wong and Mercy Sosa

Sacramento State President Robert Nelsen announced in a SacSend email Friday morning that classes will continue despite the confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, being treated at UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.

Nelsen said that no one at Sac State has tested positive for the virus.

RELATED: First case of coronavirus in Sacramento County confirmed by public health officials

He also asked that students and employees stay home and notify faculty and supervisors if they feel sick and to seek medical care if symptoms become severe. 

Symptoms of COVID-19 can include fever, cough and shortness of breath according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms can appear between two to 14 days after exposure.

Nelsen also advised against requiring a doctor’s note or medical documentation to excuse an absence.

It is critical that individuals not be expected to obtain a written excuse from a medical provider for their absence,” Nelsen wrote in the email. 

He said some people will need to self-isolate for up to two weeks and those who become sick but do not need immediate medical care may not have medical documentation.

Nelsen also condemned rhetoric against Asians, Asian Americans and immigrants as violations of the Hornet Honor Code.

We will not stand for misinformation, denigration and stereotyping of Asian and Asian American communities,” Nelsen wrote. 

In precaution to coronavirus cases overseas, Sac State recently suspended study abroad programs to China and South Korea.

RELATED: Sac State suspends study abroad in South Korea due to coronavirus

Nelsen and Steve Perez, provost for the university, announced at the Faculty Senate meeting that they are discussing a plan of action for the next few weeks to protect the campus from coronavirus.

Anita Fitzhugh, a Sac State public information officer, said the university is not currently discussing a closure. A campus closure would be a decision of the Sacramento County Public Health Department, Fitzhugh said. 

In November 2018, when the campus closed during the Camp fire, that decision came from Nelsen’s office, Fitzhugh said.

RELATED: Nearby Camp Fire prompts closures, other action from Sac State

Social work major Galilea Munoz said it will put student’s lives on pause if the university closes. 

“A lot of people will feel stuck. When would we come back? Everything is put on pause,” Munoz said. “Everybody will have some type of urgency to go back home, but what if some people can’t make it home that fast?”

Arianna Gomez, a math major, said Sac State should close if the coronavirus outbreaks are confirmed to prevent deaths on campus. 

“If there is a confirmed outbreak, I think it’s wise that the school shut down because we do not want to risk other lives, especially because there have been deaths caused by the coronavirus,” Gomez said. “If we can prevent that then I think it’s a good idea.”

The first and only confirmed death in the U.S. due to the coronavirus, a man living in Washington, was reported on Saturday. 

Most people in the U.S. will have little immediate risk of exposure to coronavirus at this time according to the CDC and, according to Nelsen’s email, Sacramento County health experts have indicated that the risk of COVID-19 is low.  

Amrita Dhamota, a sociology major, said she will be coming to classes even if there is an outbreak. 

“The coronavirus is a big deal but there’s ways to avoid it like washing your hands and wearing a mask,” Dhamota said. “If they cancel classes I will be staying home, but if classes continue and there’s an outbreak I will just be more cautious.”

Dennis Sauao, kinesiology major, said he does not think that the outbreak should stop Sac State students from coming to school.

“Take the proper precautions if you are feeling ill, but I wouldn’t let that hinder you from doing anything you need to do,” Sauao said. “Don’t feel too scared, there are plenty of virus scares all the time.”

Mechanical engineering major Steven Nguyen will be attending school because of financial reasons but thinks that if the outbreak gets out of control, the school should take action. 

“From what I have heard so far, it is not a mass population that has been affected yet,” said Nguyen. “As long as they keep it contained, I think we will be fine. Since I am paying for school, I feel like I should be getting my education as long as [the virus]  doesn’t go widespread or get out of control.”

Nguyen said that students should be mindful of their health and should inform professors if they are infected with the coronavirus. 

“If students still want to participate in school but they have the coronavirus, they should have a doctor’s note to take all precautions and not get other students infected,” Nguyen said. “The best thing to do is communicate with your professor and let them know what is going on with your health.” 

Magaly Muñoz contributed to this report.

UPDATE: Monday, March 2, 2020.

This story has been updated to clarify that a Sacramento State campus closure would be a decision made by the Sacramento County Public Health Department, and not by Sac State President Robert Nelsen’s office, according to an email sent by university Public Information Officer Anita Fitzhugh clarifying her original comments.