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UNK Pride of the Plains marches into quarantine

Quarantine Blues

UNK Pride of the Plains Marching Band performances were canceled Saturday after a band member tested positive for COVID-19. Since then, UNK Student Health placed the positive student in isolation and 85 marching band members in quarantine. 

The decision to quarantine the directors, the color guard and the band came from Two Rivers Public Health Department. 

“What it comes down to is, we got information so quickly and so close in relation to their performance, there’s no way to have the time to figure out the situation and figure out who might be safe, so the public health department suggested just not having the performance, and then quarantining [the band] until we figure out the different layers and who was most affected,” said Cindy Ference, the associate director of Student Health. 

The marching band rehearsed outdoors the morning of the Loper Spirit March and the football scrimmage. Earlier in the week, one of the band members had been randomly tested for COVID-19 on campus. They received their results after the morning rehearsal. 

The asymptomatic band member tested positive for COVID-19. The student informed the band director, who called the public health department. 

Student Health was contacted soon after with directions to quarantine the marching band. 

“The university has taken some criticism from some of the band parents and band members, but that was the responsible thing to do—to cancel that performance and quarantine those students,” said Todd Gottula, the senior director of UNK Communications and Marketing. “I hate that the band feels this way, but I don’t know what other decision we could have made. We entered this season comfortable that all the safety protocols in place would keep this from happening, but we also knew all along—we continue to know—that it’s a possibility with any group that this could happen.”

As of right now, the band is quarantined for 14 days. However, some exceptions have been made for band members who were already quarantining before the positive case was discovered. 

 Now Ference is working with the band directors to conduct contact tracing.   

“I am going to be looking at what we can do if there is a way to get any of them back by studying the situation,” Ference said. “That’s all the further I am—is just getting arrangements and placements in different classes, in different ensembles and different band formations.”

Gottula sent the current coronavirus numbers as of Oct. 12 out in a mass email. Since Oct. 5, the number of positive cases across campus increased from 17 to 38. 

Wendy Schardt, the director of Student Health and Counseling, said unaware, asymptomatic students, might play a role in the rising numbers.

 “We are seeing a bit of a spike, but it’s really kind of telling students to rethink some of your social activities because we get a lot of students calling in who are asymptomatic who are positive,” Schardt said. “Then you know this is how [COVID-19] is spreading. We get so many asymptomatic people who have no idea they have it.”

Schardt encourages students to distance themselves and refrain from giving in to “mask fatigue.”  

Even though COVID-19 procedures were followed at rehearsals, the quarantined marching band members will attend classes online and through Zoom until contact tracing is completed. 

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