Journalism 133: Prof. Craig: Fact Checking Exercise

Fact Checking Exercise

Numerous factual errors have been introduced into the following article, but it is based on a current real story. Please download the Word document of this story or paste the text below into a Word document.  Next, look up and verify all information, then use Track Changes to fix all errors and rewrite the story with all errors corrected.  Email the completed assignment to me by class time next Monday.

University Asks Professors Not To Tell Students of Classmates' Positive COVID-19 Tests

The University of Arizona has had more than 1,000 students and 150 employees and staff members test positive for COVID-19 as of Saturday, while professors have revealed they were instructed not to tell students about outbreaks among their classmates.

Since launching a coronavirus tracking dashboard on August 24, UA students' positive virus test results have more than doubled.

In just three days, between August 25 and August 27, UA reported 481 new coronavirus cases among students and school staff and employees.

In an email to the engineering department, professors were explicitly instructed not to tell their students if someone in a class tests positive.

“Do not tell the rest of the class,” the email reads, with the word “not” underlined. It goes on to say that students who test positive are not considered an exposure risk if masks were worn and social distancing was practiced—meaning the students and professor may never be informed if someone in their class tests positive.

Multiple other emails from other departments warn teachers against telling students about a positive classmate or posting about it on social media, even in the most general terms, claiming it could constitute a health information privacy violation.

Professors said the policy made them feel unsafe on campus.

“A lot of my colleagues and people I've talked to, they’re terrified,” said Michael Innis-Jimenez, a sociology professor who decided to teach all his classes remotely after learning the details of the school’s reopening plan.

“Every statement at least for the last month has been about this plan, they’ve got this plan,” he said, adding later: “It makes it feel like a lot of this is for show, especially when they don’t want you to confirm it’s not working.”

Asked about the email, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing and Communications Officer Steve Moore directed readers to the school website, which states that, “for privacy reasons, the instructor should not announce to the class that a student in the class has tested positive, even anonymously.”

The crisis in Tucson comes amid similar outbreaks at schools across the country, Both George Washington University and Georgetown University were forced to move to online-only classes after a spike in cases this month. Dozens of schools have reported widespread outbreaks in their sports programs and Greek life communities, and some—including the University of Arizona—have suspended all gatherings and social events.

In an email to faculty Tuesday, Arizona Provost Liesl Folks reiterated that professors are not responsible for reporting positive cases to their students or the school. The reason for this, she wrote, is because the university has a “robust program” for alerting exposed parties, as well as “instructions for isolation that puts the health and well-being of our community at the forefront.”

But students and staff say the program is flawed. If a student tests positive on campus, the COVID Support Program is automatically informed and the university reaches out. But students who test positive with an off-campus provider are directed to call a school-sponsored COVID-19 hotline that usually goes to voicemail and can take anywhere from 24 to 48 hours for a response.

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