FAIRFAX, Va. — Some students have taken to wearing surgical masks at George Mason University, as anxiety spreads over a suspected case of coronavirus on the campus. In an email from Student Health Services sent early Monday evening, George Mason confirmed that a student was being tested for the new strain of coronavirus.
"The university has received numerous questions about reports of a student who has exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus and is responding to individual questions as quickly as possible," the University said in a letter to students. "The university can share that the individual in Northern Virginia is a Mason student, does not reside on campus, and is self-isolating while laboratory testing results are processed."
Two other cases in central Virginia tested negative for the new strain of coronavirus. The letter went on to say that of the three suspected coronavirus cases in Virginia, only the Mason student's results had not yet been returned, but they were expecting results from the CDC "later this week."
The University said they believed the "risk to the public and the Mason community remains low," and that they had been "advised that additional precautions are not necessary."
Neither the University nor Virginia Health authorities are sharing any information about the identity of the individual currently being observed and tested, but the University's letter said the local health department would contact anyone they believed to be at risk of exposure.
Anxiety was heightened over the weekend as a post from an unidentified individual to the social media platform Reddit reported second-hand information that "...a student from Wuhan at GMU is not feeling well and has quarantined himself/herself but refusing (sic) to go to hospital."
The Reddit post has since been deleted.
State health officials said the only confirmations of illness will come in announcements from the Virginia Department of Health. No cases have been confirmed in the state.
George Mason officials urged students to take general precautions that will prevent the spread of flu-like illnesses of all types. According to the statement:
- Do not attend classes, work, or university events when sick. Stay home except when seeking medical care and avoid contact with others.
- Seek medical care right away if you experience symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
- Before you go to Student Health Services, doctor’s office, or emergency room, call ahead and inform the clinic about your recent travel and symptoms. Follow the instructions of medical care providers to get the care you need while keeping others safe.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available
Read the full email to George Mason students below:
Dear Mason Patriots,
The university has received numerous questions about reports of a student who has exhibited symptoms of the coronavirus and is responding to individual questions as quickly as possible. The university can share that the individual in Northern Virginia is a Mason student, does not reside on campus, and is self-isolating while laboratory testing results are processed. Of the three suspected coronavirus cases reported in Virginia, the two cases in central Virginia tested negative. Test results for the suspected case in Northern Virginia have not been released. Coronavirus tests are being processed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and should be announced later this week.
At this time, the current risk to the public and the Mason community remains low, and the university has been advised that additional precautions are not necessary. We understand there are concerns among our community about attending classes or coming to work, where this student may have been on campus, and who they might have come into contact with on campus. The local health department is conducting an investigation and will contact anyone whom they suspect to be at risk of exposure and illness. Please continue to follow the general precautions recommended by the CDC and Virginia Department of Health shared in previous emails. The university is maintaining normal operations, all classes and events will be held as scheduled.
To mitigate the spread of this disease, the university is monitoring university-related and university-sponsored travel to China. Students who intend to travel abroad for personal reasons should consult with their health care provider and review travel information available from the CDC here. Organized student travel for academic purposes and employee travel to China must be reviewed by the University Travel Advisory Committee. Please visit https://internationaltravel.gmu.edu/hazardous-areas to request a review of university related travel to China.
If you have recently traveled to Hubei Province/China and are experiencing fever (greater than 100˚F or 37.8˚C), cough, or difficulty breathing, report immediately to the nearest hospital emergency department. If you have mild symptoms and a lower temperature seek medical care at Student Health Services or your primary care physician. Call the emergency room or clinic before you arrive relay your condition and recent travel history.
Students, if you, your family or guardians wish to remain informed of the information and precautions shared by Mason, this email will also be distributed to family members subscribed to the Mason Family Flash newsletter. If you have a family member who is not subscribed but would like to be, they can sign up at https://masonfamily.gmu.edu/mason-family-association/.
Faculty and staff, if you are receiving questions about the university’s response to reports of coronavirus in our region or among our community, please direct students to the information released in university-wide emails and ask them to seek medical care and remain out of class if they become ill.
We will continue to carefully monitor this public health incident. As new information becomes available it will be shared via university email.
Student Health Services