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  • By Shelbi R. Ankiewicz

President Benson tests positive for COVID-19 after only three weeks in office

Photo courtesy of Michael T. Benson.

Coastal Carolina University’s new president, Michael T. Benson, tested positive for COVID-19 on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Benson is unsure of how he contracted the virus, whether it be from on campus or elsewhere. He had just arrived home a few days prior from visiting his family in Kentucky when he learned of the results.

While on campus, Benson was riding a golf cart around with CCU’s Provost, Daniel Ennis. They were greeting people, safely, while wearing their masks. Benson then proceeded to have dinner in Hick’s Dining Hall on Tuesday night.

Thursday morning the Chief of Police visited Benson in his office, and moments after the Chief left, Benson received the email stating that he tested positive. Disregarding the meetings that were taking place later that day, Benson calmly picked up his things, put on his mask, and left, remaining home ever since.

“People have been really generous and kind, dropping food off on my doorstep, and some people from our local congregation dropped off way too many cookies… I didn’t need to eat them all, but I did,” said Benson in a phone interview.

According to the COVID-19 Dashboard on CCU’s website, the university’s numbers have been consistent since last June. There has been a small spike in numbers recently among students and staff, but not a remarkable amount.

“I think that we’ve done really, really well,” said Benson. “It’s kind of like the fourth quarter of the football game; we played hard the entire season, and now we just have to keep pushing through.”

COVID-19 precautions on campus will remain the same. The mask ordinance is still in place as well as social distancing measures in classrooms. Clubs, organizations and office hours will remain online until it is time to navigate to Phase 2 of the Coastal Comeback Plan.

“I would not suggest any sort of changes to our protocols, because if you look at our numbers, our positivity rate, I want to say we’re just North of 400 cases since June of last year which is really quite remarkable,” said Benson.

Benson was tested on campus in parking lot KK, next to public safety. The results from that testing site take two days to process.

Since being at home, Benson has been staying engaged through online zoom classes and meetings. He has implemented a weekly routine after being in office for a month. Benson returned to campus on Feb. 1, 2021.

“Like everybody I miss the human contact and shaking someone’s hand and looking at them in the eyes, but we’re not to that point yet,” said Benson. “We’re getting closer, you know the vaccine and people getting inoculated that certainly helps…”

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