The Harding University Florence (HUF) students returned to the States Feb. 29, and several students entered quarantine based on state guidelines at the time. Following instructions from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) directed the students in the state to avoid public spaces, remain at home and minimize interactions with family members until March 14, when the incubation period of COVID-19 passed.
Sophomore HUF student Everett Kirkman said she was motivated to stay in voluntary quarantine because she didn’t want to potentially expose her two grandmothers to the virus since they were in a higher risk group for COVID-19.
“I do want to see them, and I know they want to see me, but I want to be responsible,” Kirkman said. “And if I am a carrier of [COVID-19], which I could be even if I’m not showing symptoms, I don’t want to be the one that gets one of them sick.”
HUF students returned home to 10 states: Texas, Pennsylvania, New York, Georgia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Colorado, Indiana and South Carolina. The state health departments of New York, Oklahoma, Colorado, South Carolina and Arkansas requested that travelers returning from Italy at the time voluntarily quarantine in their own homes, while the rest of the states advised returning travelers to follow CDC recommendations.
According to the National Conference of State Legislations, both the federal and state governments have the right to legally enforce quarantine and isolation related to communicable diseases. The ADH is currently monitoring 441 travelers with daily check-ins and investigating 113 possible cases of COVID-19. While quarantine in Arkansas is voluntary for returning travelers who may not be infected, the state does retain the right to involve law enforcement if infected people refuse medical advice. The National Conference of State Legislatures statute for Arkansas states the director of the Department of Health has ultimate control over all quarantine measures. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson addressed the concern surrounding COVID-19 on Feb. 28 in a press conference.
“We go about our business, we spend our money, we drive the economy and we conduct business because there’s no confirmed cases in Arkansas,” Hutchinson said. “And it’s important that we go about our daily lives without fear.”
Health advisors across the U.S. have advised citizens to avoid panicking as COVID-19 spreads. According to the CDC, there are 10,442 confirmed cases and 150 confirmed deaths related to the virus in the U.S. as of March 19.
Karen Kelley, associate professor of nursing at Harding, said people in the Searcy community should not worry but practice basic health precautions and wash their hands regularly. The best place to find information and prevention procedures regarding the virus is on the CDC website, Kelley said.
“My opinion is you should probably be prepared,” Kelley said.