During Monday’s meeting of the Howard College Board of Trustees, Dr. Cheryl Sparks, President of Howard College, spoke on their plans for graduation. She pointed out that the Dorothy Garrett Coliseum is the largest indoor facility in Howard County and they have been very cautious in opening it up because they wanted to adhere to recommendations of local health officials. She also advised that Big Spring Fire Chief Craig Ferguson and Dr. Rohith Saravanan with Scenic Mountain Medical Center have been consulted on how they continue with the graduation ceremonies.
Howard College is planning a live, in-person graduation event this spring at the Dorothy Garrett Coliseum and there will be a live stream option so that the ceremony can be viewed online. Students will receive 4 tickets for graduation. Tickets that are unused by a certain date will be redistributed as requested. Individuals must wear masks while inside of the coliseum. If you are experiencing any COVID-19 symptoms, you are urged to not attend. Visitors/viewers are asked to self-screen. Family groups will sit together and social distancing will be created by marking off rows. The maximum capacity for the coliseum will be at 25 percent.
Under guidance of Chief Ferguson and Dr. Saravanan, looked at air exchange in the facility. They’re goal is to complete 7 to 9 air exchanges within the building every hour. Dr. Saravanin advised that the spread has been controlled but it’s not absent. He stated that the local community was currently at 20 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated, but we still have a long way to go to achieve herd immunity. There are a number of vulnerable individuals who are unvaccinated who will attend the events.
Dr. Saravanin advised that this is a risk mitigation strategy. If the ceremony were outside and people were able to social distance, then face masks would not be needed. Since the event is indoors, the risk increases. Face masks, social distancing, and air exchanges will help to mitigate these risks. With the strategies that Howard College plans to implement, there will only be a 25 percent capacity allowed in the coliseum.
During the meeting, Chief Ferguson advised that approximately 3 weeks ago, Region J hospitalization rate had been at 1.5 percent, but that rate has more than doubled to 2.7 percent in the past 2 weeks. Approximately 3 weeks ago, there were only 12 cases of COVID-19. As of Friday, April 23rd, there have been 48 cases. Chief Ferguson stated that although 48 cases is not a huge amount of people infected, but it does show a spike in local cases of COVID-19.