Update: Please read the latest editorial with updated information regarding this topic here.
In a recent interview with The Murray State News, President Bob Jackson said the University will not disclose positive COVID-19 cases on campus in order to protect the privacy of students, faculty and staff. When a Murray State member tests positive, it will be reported to the Calloway County Health Department. There will be no reports to differentiate between community cases and Murray State cases as students will be labeled residents of Calloway County. Essentially, the University refuses to be transparent when a student, faculty or staff member tests positive for COVID-19. Protecting the privacy of the small—but growing—group of those who test positive is necessary, but protecting the rest of campus is even more important for our health and safety. University administrators have failed to acknowledge that they can protect people’s privacy while keeping a transparent and trusting relationship with everyone else who is at risk. This decision protects only those with the virus while disregarding the lives of every other student, faculty and staff member on campus.
It is important for Calloway County to keep track of the total number of cases in this region, and it is just as important for Murray State to tally the number of positive cases on campus and distribute this information to the campus community. Simply stating a case has been reported does not infringe on anyone’s privacy. Though, it’s obvious why the University has chosen to keep the number of positive cases on campus a secret… no cases, no problem, right? The University can continue to pretend like the pandemic does not affect Murray State to quell our anxieties, but this only makes the situation worse. Not reporting on-campus cases causes more paranoia because we do not know how quickly the virus is spreading on campus and where it has been. People are left to create rumors, which could inevitably be worse. It certainly makes the University look like they only care about money rather than people’s lives. During a time like this, there is no protecting the University image; in fact, it makes the image look worse. We are in a pandemic. Now is not the time to cover up a health crisis. Professors need to know if a student has tested positive in a class. People need to contact trace and figure out who has been exposed. There are professors, faculty, staff and students of all ages with a variety of health problems who would be at risk, and with family in various situations they could go back to. If the University of Kentucky and Western Kentucky University can provide campus updates, then Murray State is expected to do the same. Since University administrators wanted us back on campus, it is their responsibility to be transparent with us.
Despite the University attempting to keep the number of cases on the down-low, the Calloway County Health Department has continued to report case number updates for the area and only the Governor’s office has relayed much more in-depth information demographically. We can only assume the amount of cases Murray State is contributing. Even more, the University is failing Calloway County and endangering its residents by not reporting the amount of cases on campus. The safety of Calloway County and Murray State faculty and students can’t be ignored, especially after the White House report listing Calloway County as a red zone with a 10% or higher positive test rate for COVID-19. Gov. Beshear shared the report at today’s press conference.
With the numbers Beshear attributed this too being before Murray State students arrived on campus, it goes to show just how crucial full transparency is to ensure the safety of all residents, students and faculty in the community. By keeping the number of cases “private,” the University is severing trust with Calloway County, the campus community and the families that send students to Murray State. It is unethical in every way to keep the number of positive cases private. This virus kills.