Julia Guilbeau and Nicole Mistretta
University of Louisiana Lafayette officials said students and faculty that attended the NICAR journalism conference in New Orleans can return to class after possible COVID-19 exposure.
Concern arose from the conference organizers’ announcement that one unnamed attendee tested presumptive positive for COVID-19.
The university officials communicated to the eight journalism students and one professor that they are low-risk and are safe to return to class. The university also emailed an announcement informing campus students, faculty and staff of the situation.
Eric Maron, senior communications representative for the university’s communication department and public information officer for the coronavirus on campus, said that if the students still have concerns about their health to contact the student wellness center.
Madeline Husband-Ardoin, chief administrative officer at the Saucier Wellness Center, said individuals at high risk were contacted and given additional information about the virus.
Stephenson Waters Ph.D., an assistant professor of journalism at UL and NICAR attendee said, “We haven’t been personally notified, so we’re OK.”
Husband-Ardoin said the office of public health made the decision in accordance with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state guidelines.
“We work hand and hand with them,” Husband-Ardoin said. “We let them take the lead and tell us. I don’t do anything on my own.”
Husband-Ardoin said the students should monitor their health for the next 14 days. If any of the students develop symptoms, Husband-Ardoin asked that they contact the wellness center to be connected to a facility that could administer the test.
“I can’t speak to how [the test] is done, but we don’t do it here at student health services,” Husband-Ardoin said.
Husband-Ardoin said the university would have to ask the public health department about what to do if a student contracts the virus.
The 2020 NICAR conference, held March 5-8, hosted about 1,000 journalists and student journalists from across the United States and around the world.
The organizers of the conference, Investigative Reporters and Editors, notified all attendees of one of the individual’s presumptive positive test for COVID-19 Tuesday night. Those who were believed to be in direct contact with the person were also contacted individually and given further instructions.
None of the UL Lafayette students who attended were told they were in close contact with the individual.
Some other journalists across the United States who attended the conference are self-quarantining, some mandated by their news organization, according to an article posted by NiemanLab.
Waters said, “We’re all keeping an eye on our health, and we will notify everyone if we start seeing any symptoms. We’re keeping in touch, and we’re not too worried. NICAR was a great experience for the students, and we can’t wait to use what we’ve learned.”