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Saint Louis University seeing successful fall term despite COVID-19

"I'd give our Billikens an A+ and it shows in the data," SLU's president said

ST. LOUIS — Saint Louis University is about half-way through their fall semester and so far they haven't had to deal with an outbreak of COVID-19. 

Administration cut their summer vacation short to create a pandemic planning and response team. Dr. Terri Rebmann is the director for SLU's Institute of Biosecurity and helped design the fall plan, "I've spent my career preparing for this kind of event and hoping that it would never occur."

Saint Louis University's return to in-person strategy included testing all 3,500 residential students prior to move-in. In September, random testing of 10% of all asymptomatic residential students began. Dr. Rebmann said the random testing concept is supported by the university's biostatisticians.

SLU's positivity rate is 0.6%. The low transmission rate on campus means students and faculty are less likely to contract the virus than people in the surrounding community and State of Missouri. 

Dr. Fred Pestello is the president of Saint Louis University and he attributes the school's success to its students.

"Our nursing students are helping with the testing, volunteering to do the testing. Our public health students are doing the contact tracing," Pestello said.

Additional student volunteers are delivering meals and goodie bags to students in isolation. Others are serving as public health ambassadors, helping monitor compliance.

At the beginning of the term, SLU set aside their hotel and apartment complex for isolation housing, but they have only needed to use 16% of spaces so far. 

In an interview with 5 On Your Side Dr. Pestello said he was proud of all students for taking safety seriously this semester. 

There is currently no concrete plan for spring, but Dr. Pestello is confident there will be on-campus learning again, "I have no reason to believe it will be different in the spring term, although we are probably going to start the spring term later than we typically would."

The university offered flexible instruction for both students and faculty. 75% of classes are currently in-person or hybrid format. 

On campus events were cancelled for the duration of the semester. Large spaces are being utilized as classrooms to allow for social distancing.


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