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BCCC student tests positive for new coronavirus; union says classes should’ve been canceled sooner

A Baltimore City Community College student has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

BCCC officials learned of the COVID-19 case on Monday and shared details with the college community in a letter sent Tuesday by president Debra McCurdy.

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The student was on the community college’s Liberty campus March 12 and first evaluated at a hospital with symptoms on March 16, but was sent home. The student was later admitted to a hospital March 21 and discharged March 24, McCurdy said in the letter.

BCCC faculty have been in touch with the student, who is resting and at home self-quarantining, McCurdy said.

“While this information is disturbing to all of us, please know that we are working to support you and your needs while learning and working in this challenging environment,” McCurdy said.

Local leaders of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees — the union that represents about 200 BCCC workers in physical plant, administration, academics and public safety — said Wednesday that they were frustrated by the college’s decision not to cancel in-person classes until March 16.

AFSCME Local 1870 president Kahi Fraser and vice president Salita High say the union requested on March 11 that classes be canceled on BCCC campuses. Many Maryland colleges and universities opted to cancel classes that same day.

High, who has an autoimmune deficiency and is over the age of 60, believes she and other staffers were unnecessarily exposed to COVID-19 before classes were canceled. She has self-quarantined since last week.

BCCC representative Dawn Kirstaetter says the college moved as “swiftly as we could" in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We didn’t make this decision casually," Kirstaetter said of the class cancellations. "We care deeply about the health and safety of our students and faculty.”

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Before deciding to cancel in-person classes, BCCC leaders consulted with other Maryland community college presidents. BCCC also followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and encouraged employees who were sick to stay home, Kirstaetter said.


Fraser and High also say that BCCC officials have not informed union leadership of which buildings or staffers the sickened student visited on campus.

Kirstaetter said BCCC officials have an obligation to protect the privacy of the student, but added the college conferred with the Baltimore City Health Department on response protocols.

“We supplied the city health department with contact information for any student or employee who may have had contact with the diagnosed student,” Kirstaetter said.

BCCC’s environmental services team has deep-cleaned campus classrooms and labs and will target additional deep cleaning before operations resume on campus, McCurdy said in the announcement.

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The college president asked community members to visit the BCCC website for information and to follow recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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