From Dr. Sean Graham, Assistant Professor of Biology, Sul Ross State University

1. What do we know about COVID-19 in terms of its presence in Texas? There have been reported cases in most major cities and we have had the first case of “community transmission” , i.e., effective spread from one individual to another in Texas, and NOT from contracting it overseas. This probably means there are quite a few undetected cases as well.

2. Why did Sul Ross delay spring break and move to online delivery of classes? The Sul Ross administration is attempting to delay the onset of large numbers of cases locally. Schools are a perfect place to breed viruses. We are trying to “flatten the curve”. A transmission curve without social distancing looks like a tall peak; alot of cases appear all at once then go away. With social distancing, you can make the transmission curve look like a long low hill. If you keep people from close contact, there are fewer cases over a longer period of time, so we don’t swamp our medical facilities. The administration didn’t panic, they are doing what the CDC and doctors suggested to keep our elderly friends and family safe. And we’re all in this together; the more you keep away from folks the better it will work. Just treat it like a long spring break!

3. What can students do to keep from being bored? Work on their online classes. With so much time off, I recommend reading books and going outside. You can still go outside and enjoy the wonderful spring weather. Take the time to get some exercise and lose a few pounds!

4. Just how dangerous is this situation in regard to living in a rural area? I think people shouldn’t worry about this from a rural-city perspective; we have sufficient medical facilities for our small population. People should be very careful not to spread this to elderly people, and treat this like you would the ordinary seasonal flu but with slightly more vigilance.

5. What steps are being taken by the local medical community to insure that any impact by COVID-19 is minimal? Big Bend Regional Medical Center is doing a fantastic job trying to get information to people and to reduce the fear. I assume they are doing an equally good job getting ready for potential cases.

6. What would be the best preventative measures for people to take? Same as those for avoiding the flu; avoid large gatherings, touching people, wash your hands frequently and sufficiently, avoid people who appear sick.

7. What would a possible quarantine involve for Sul Ross and the Alpine community? The CDC is already recommending self-quarantine; if you are sick with upper respiratory symptoms you should stay home for a couple of weeks and keep people informed about your progress but avoid contact with people, especially elderly people. Elderly people are significantly more likely to experience bad cases, and young people are far less vulnerable. This means young people have a responsibility to prevent transmission from themselves to the older population.