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More than 10 individuals across Faulkner County have been quarantined as of Wednesday after health officials learned they had been exposed to the COVID-19 virus.

The Log Cabin Democrat received notice from the University of Central Arkansas around 4:30 p.m. Wednesday. Officials said on March 9, a UCA student had possibly been exposed to the virus during “out-of-state travel,” leading health officials to quarantine the student, roommates and eight others that the student had come in contact with.

“The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) initiated testing on Wednesday morning, and we continue to await the results of the test,” a statement from UCA President Houston Davis to students, faculty and staff, reads. “The 11 individuals remain quarantined.”

In addition, Conway School District also confirmed one of its students was being quarantined by ADH as a protective measure.

“The student has a sibling who recently traveled home from another country,” Conway officials said. “In that country, the sibling was quarantined and has shown no symptoms. Now our student is being quarantined as a precaution. Neither has shown any symptoms of the virus.”

Superintendent Greg Murry over the last few weeks, he has met with city leaders, local health officials and first responders regarding COVID-19 to ensure that everyone is “one the same page moving forward.”

“Internally we have met with our schools’(s) nurses, building administrators, and they(,) in turn(,) are meeting with staff to address this developing situation,” Murry said.

The rising numbers come on the cusp of the health department’s announcement Wednesday regarding one “presumptive positive” case in the state originating in Pine Bluff – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working to confirm the case.

That individual is currently being hospitalized at Jefferson Regional Medical Center in Pine Bluff, according to ADH officials, who said they are still gathering information at this point.

The World Health Organization officially declared COVID-19 as a pandemic March 11.

Across the U.S., 38 states and Washington D.C., have reported a confirmed 938 total cases, with 29 total deaths thus far.

While there is still currently no vaccine for the virus, the CDC continues to recommend several preventative actions:

Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

Avoid touching eyes, nose and mouth.

Stay home when sick.

Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.

The CDC does not currently recommend the use of face masks among the general public.

Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom, before eating and after blowing nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.

Several universities, including UCA, have also suspended travel abroad opportunities for students.

On Jan. 30, UCA suspended all institution-related travel to China and on March 2, to Italy, following the advice of the CDC.

Hendrix College officials have said with spring break coming up, all residence halls and apartments will remain open for those that do not wish to travel far from campus.

In addition, education-related travel plans are being canceled as “warranted,” and students have been brought back from countries with a level-3 travel warning from the U.S. Department of State.

Many have also decided to close out of precaution, including the University of Arkansas at Monticello, which made the ultimate call to move all classes online out of caution and all University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College sites, both effective March 12 until at least March 30.

While none across Faulkner County have made that decision, Hendrix officials said the college is setting up Office 365 Teams for Education as its online platform just in case.

“If there is a future need to close campus for an extended period of time, the UCA Center for Teaching Excellence has resources and advice for faculty regarding how to move content online and avoid disruptions in teaching and learning,” the university website reads.

Staff writer Hilary Andrews can be reached at handrews@thecabin.net

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