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AU indefinitely postpones summer commencement; local COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise
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AU indefinitely postpones summer commencement; local COVID-19 hospitalizations on the rise

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Auburn University graduates no longer have a graduation ceremony date in August.

The university announced Monday that its summer commencement ceremonies are postponed indefinitely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Per a release on the university’s graduation website, “Despite the university’s efforts to coordinate ceremonies that promoted numerous safety protocols and aligned with Centers for Disease Control and state guidelines, growing concerns over graduates’ and guests’ ability to travel to and from other states and attend large in-person gatherings led the university to postpone the commencement ceremonies scheduled for Aug. 1 (Harrison School of Pharmacy and College of Veterinary Medicine) and Aug. 8 (all other colleges and schools) indefinitely.”

Graduates and their guests, however, are welcome to visit Auburn’s campus and celebrate their graduation on Saturday, Aug. 8. They will be able to celebrate through the following opportunities:

Campus buildings will be open and academic deans will be available to greet graduates and families. Colleges and schools will communicate specific times to their graduates.

From 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. graduates and families will have the opportunity to visit Jordan-Hare Stadium. Once inside, graduates can wear their regalia, scan their name card and have their name displayed on the video board where Auburn University Photographic Services will be available to shoot official photos.

Other campus venues, including the Auburn Arena, AU Bookstore, Student Center and Samford Hall, will be open to visitors.

All summer 2020 graduates will receive a commemorative gift box that includes a copy of The Auburn Creed, an alumni pin, copies of the commencement program, a gameday button and an Auburn University print.

Auburn University-required safety guidelines will be enforced during the weekend.

The university originally postponed its spring commencement ceremony and planned to hold a combined spring and summer commencement ceremonies in August at Jordan-Hare Stadium.

All spring 2020 graduates received their Auburn diploma and were given a commemorative gift box that includes a copy of The Auburn Creed, an alumni pin, copies of the commencement program, a gameday button and a mortarboard and tassel. Diplomas will be mailed to summer graduates in August, and summer graduates will be sent a gift box with similar items, the university said.

Auburn hopes to recognize spring and summer graduates at a future event or allow them to participate in future graduation exercises. A decision for Auburn’s December 2020 commencement is expected to be announced by mid-fall.

EAMC updateEast Alabama Medical Center officials are not sure what the future holds after seeing COVID-19 hospitalizations increase for two days after two days of decreases.

There were 60 COVID-19 patients hospitalized, of which 58 were COVID-19 positive, on Monday, the highest number of hospitalized patients since 63 were hospitalized July 22, according to hospital data.

“Our COVID-19 census is still very high in the hospital,” Dr. Ricardo Maldonado, EAMC’s infectious disease specialist, said. “We have one floor that is full of COVID-19 patients (36), the ICU has 12 patients with the virus and another floor has the remainder of the COVID-19 patients.”

Maldonado added that some patients with COVID-19 stay in ICU for three weeks or longer.

“If you consider a person’s length of stay once they make it to the ICU, we only need a few more who get sick enough to need ICU care and we will run out of ICU beds,” he said.

Hospital officials also feel that Alabama’s mask mandate, which is set to expire Friday, must be extended in order to help ease the potential strain on the hospital system.

“We need to lower our census first and so do other hospitals,” Maldonado said. “We feel strongly that Governor Ivey should extend it for several more weeks. Our COVID-19 census now is dangerously high, and we will likely go on critical-care diversion this week, meaning that patients in need of critical care will have to go to other hospitals.”

With the beginning of school just around the corner, Maldonado reminds the community that it is still important to wear a mask.

“Wearing a face mask lowers transmission,” he said. “There are still people in the community not wearing masks at appropriate times and in appropriate ways. Please train your kids and practice with them daily so they are used to wearing masks before returning to school.”

Local numbersThe Alabama Department of Public Health (ADPH) continues to confirm new COVID-19 cases in east Alabama counties.

There were 779 confirmed cases in Chambers County, 2,286 in Lee County, 291 in Macon County, 1,081 in Russell County and 769 in Tallapoosa County as of Monday evening, according to ADPH.

Lee County is averaging the most new COVID-19 cases in the last two weeks in east Alabama with about 42 new cases per day, according to ADPH data.

The following is the average number of new cases confirmed in east Alabama counties over the past 14 days:

Chambers County — 6

Macon County — 5

Russell County — 25

Tallapoosa County — 9

There were 79,129 confirmed cases and 1,446 virus-related deaths in Alabama as of Monday night.

Of the 1,446 reported deaths, 38 are from Chambers County, 40 from Lee County, 12 from Macon County, one from Russell County and 78 from Tallapoosa County.

TestingEAMC saw a decrease in calls to its 334-528-SICK hotline for the second straight week, which helped testing volumes dip for the first time in seven weeks, the hospital said.

EAMC tested 812 patients last week, of which 115 tested positive. The positivity rate for those tested last week was 14.2 percent. The Auburn University Medical Clinic tested 1,011 patients last week and confirmed 70 cases, which yields a 6.9 percent positivity rate, EAMC said.

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