Less than a week into the fall semester that began on Monday, Aug. 17, Mississippi State University has already begun moving COVID-19 positive students out of their dorms and into two local hotels in Starkville due to the coronavirus.
MSU has not responded to a request for comment, but the Mississippi Free Press heard from family members of multiple students who have been quarantined.
Before reopening, MSU Provost and Executive Vice President David Shaw sent an email to students announcing that the university had made contract agreements with Starkville’s local Comfort Suites and its Hampton Inn, allowing them to house up to 155 students “for isolation and quarantine purposes” if necessary.
“These are ideal facilities for this purpose, since they have independent rooms with dedicated bathrooms for each person,” Shaw said in the Aug. 10 email. “We had discussed setting aside one or more residence halls for this purpose, but it was actually more effective and cost-efficient to rent out the hotels for that purpose.”
One family member said the campus health center has been inundated with students.
Though MSU has not announced how many cases it currently has campus-wide, MSU Chief Communications Officer Sid Salter told the Columbus Dispatch on Friday that the school had evacuated 80 students out of Greek Life houses following COVID-19 outbreaks. He could not be reached for comment for this report.
Students with confirmed cases or known exposure must quarantine for two weeks before returning to campus.
The university is allowing some students to return home if they like, but the hotels allow students to quarantine without having to return to family members whom they might infect.
“The suggestion was made that we need to make every effort to keep our students in Starkville rather than them traveling on weekends, especially to their homes. This has two purposes: they do not need to expose their parents and grandparents; and, they do not need to be exposed to the virus and bring it back to campus,” Shaw said in his Aug. 10 email.
On Thursday, the Mississippi State Department of Health also confirmed cases among student athletes at the University of Mississippi in Oxford and among students at the Mississippi University for Women in Columbus.