Fresno State gives update on COVID-19 cases and furloughs in past few months

Fresno State. (Jose Romo/The Collegian)

Written with a contribution from Zaeem Shaikh

With the fall 2020 semester three weeks away, the university disclosed to The Collegian that the number of positive COVID-19 cases and auxiliary employees furloughed were higher than previously reported since the start of the summer.

In a campus email on June 15, Fresno State President Dr. Joseph I. Castro announced that three members who worked on campus had tested positive for COVID-19. 

Castro said to The Collegian that there were more members of the campus community who had tested positive, but that information was not released like the previous three cases.

“We had [cases] earlier this summer that we announced…and I know that we’ve had a few others since that time that we’ve handled appropriately,” Castro said.

As of July 19, a Fresno State spokesperson says they are aware of 12 individuals who were confirmed positive for COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and who had been on campus during their infectious period.

According to Fresno State, a web page has been made providing information that circulates around COVID-19 updates and statistics of positive cases on campus.

Additionally, the university is making adjustments to deal with cuts from the state budget.

“The state budget would reduce the Fresno State allocation by about $13 million, and so we have already begun to take steps to take steps to deal with that cut,” Castro said. “We’ve sent a communication out… to the staff about eliminating some of our management positions, and we did that.”

Due to significant reductions of campus auxiliary operating revenues (e.g. dining, housing, bookstore, Save Mart Center) approximately 130 full-time and part-time auxiliary employees have been impacted. Other auxiliary organizations in the California State University (CSU) made similar decisions.

“We did implement furloughs for some employees on the non-state auxiliary side of the university,” Castro said. “We’ve not taken any action around furloughs for the state employees.” 

In May, the athletics department announced in a statement that 60 part-time auxiliary employees were being cut for two months due to losses in revenue. A month later, a second round of cuts hit Athletics Corporation as approximately 55 auxiliary employees were furloughed.

The furloughs included numerous employees in athletic training, communications, compliance, ticketing, academic support, equipment and strength and conditioning.

One concern surrounding the recent furloughs is whether they will soon include state employees and eventually morph into layoffs in the future. Although those decisions would need to be made system-wide, they are currently being discussed. 

“We’re discussing a number of options including layoffs and furloughs,” Castro said. “That’s still being discussed, that’s a system-wide decision. And so, there have been no furloughs of state employees, only of non-state employees.”

The university received $32 million through the funding from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. 

The CSU system is hoping for the passing of the $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, allowing universities within the system to receive much needed relief.

“We’re hoping for a second relief that would pass later this summer, and that would help us as well,” Castro said. 

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