Coronavirus Cases in the Mason Community

Fourth Estate/Alexandria McAlpine

University website lists confirmed cases; emails explain reporting guidelines


There are currently 11 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Mason community, per the university’s coronavirus website. So far, the cases consist of 10 students and one employee. 

The Mason community received its first email regarding a student who tested positive for coronavirus from Safety, Emergency, & Enterprise Risk Management on March 20. The university was made aware of this case on the evening of March 19. 

On March 23, an email on behalf of Interim President Anne Holton stated that the university was made aware of another confirmed case on March 14. The email went on to explain that there would be no further messages of individual cases. 

Executive Director of Safety and Emergency Management David Farris did not have a specific answer to why the community received information about those cases in that order.

The university depends on the community to report cases of their own volition — and, in general, that could cause discrepancies, according to Farris. 

“There could be some gaps there … if someone wasn’t able to report, forgot to report, something like that,” he said.

It is critical that the university be aware of who is at risk in our community,” an email from the Office of Communications sent on April 3 stated. “Therefore, if you test positive for COVID-19, have two or more symptoms consistent with COVID-19, or have been instructed by medical professionals to self-isolate, the university is asking you to report.”

Reporting guidelines are different for students, faculty and staff, and Mason contractors. 

“Student Health Services is the primary support mechanism for students and [Human Resources] is the primary support mechanism for employees,” Farris said. “[Emergency Health Services] is kind of in the middle to provide any additional support that’s needed to make sure that all those folks [have] the right information, get the right support.” 

Farris explained that in order to protect the privacy of those who have tested positive for coronavirus, the university does not use names to notify those who may have come into contact with an infected person. 

He said that people are “aware not of who the individual is but if there’s a potential threat.” 

Farris stated that the university is monitoring coronavirus cases, in part, to help gather data and information for the Virginia Department of Health. 

“We’re also doing this so we can make sure we’re getting the right information to the health department so they can try to get as accurate information as possible,” he said.