news-category: Campus News

GWU President Downs Hosts Panel Discussion on COVID-19 in First Event of New Series

A photo of Moderator Dr. William Downs and the panelists for the first Webb Connections session on Covid-19. From left, Dr. Downs, Tiffany Hansen, DeShay Oliver and Dr. Nicole Waters. Also in the photo is the technician who is recording the event.

‘Webb Connections’ with County Health Representatives and GWU Associate Provost Available Online

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—As part of Gardner-Webb’s commitment to serve the community, the University recently began an informative series called “Webb Connections.” Hosted by GWU President Dr. William M. Downs, these programs will feature a panel of experts discussing topics of national, regional and local interest. Because of COVID-19 safety guidelines, a small audience of students was invited to attend. The program was recorded live and is available online for everyone to view. The series, held monthly through April, will cover topics surrounding health, diversity, faith and education.

“We will discuss issues of critical importance to the Gardner-Webb Community,” noted Downs, as he explained the purpose of the new series. “We like to say that we are a private university with a very public mission. We take that responsibility very seriously, so we look for ways to help.”

The first ‘Webb Connections’ event was on the topic, ‘The Pandemic, Healthcare and Recovery: Where do we go from here? Gardner-Webb President Dr. William M. Downs, left, moderated the discussion among the panelists, Tiffany Hansen, Cleveland County health director; DeShay Oliver, deputy health director, Cleveland County Public Health Center; and Dr. Nicole Waters, GWU associate provost, College of Health Sciences. A small audience of students was invited to attend.

The title for the first event was “The Pandemic, Healthcare and Recovery: Where do we go from here?” Three panelists were featured: Tiffany Hansen, Cleveland County health director; DeShay Oliver, deputy health director, Cleveland County Public Health Center; and Dr. Nicole Waters, GWU associate provost, College of Health Sciences.

The first question Downs asked the public health representatives was to give a snapshot of the COVID-19 situation in Cleveland County. The current number of positive cases are available here.

Hansen explained that the county saw a spike in cases after the holidays, but numbers have improved since then. “Our numbers compared to six months ago probably look fairly similar, but based on those spikes we had after the holidays, we are seeing some improvements,” she said.

Oliver noted that the positivity rate is the percent of people who are testing positive from all total tests done in Cleveland County, so that number is an indication that coronavirus in Cleveland county is still fairly widespread. She also reported that the county is averaging 3,500 to 4,000 tests a week.

Waters commented that Gardner-Webb has had limited cases with more in quarantine, because of the University’s strict quarantine policy. She praised the campus community for wearing masks, staying socially distanced and following the guidelines. Downs thanked Hansen and Oliver for helping the college set up policies and perform contact tracing.

The panelists discussed the vaccine, its safety and side effects, which are the same as all vaccines–redness, soreness, tenderness at the site of injection, headache, fatigue and fever. The Health Department is strongly recommending that people get the COVID-19 vaccine, even those who have already had the virus.

Other questions related to the vaccine supply, the time it would take for everyone in Cleveland County to get vaccinated, and the short-term and long-term effects the pandemic would have on society. Topics such as telehealth, nursing curriculum, handshaking, politics, fear and mental health were covered. The panel members also took questions from the small group of students invited to attend the event.

The full discussion is available below.

The topic for next month is “Healing the Divide: Working Together.” Organizers will share details and streaming links when available.

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event. Please call (704) 406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

Located in the North Carolina foothills, Gardner-Webb University is a private, Christian, liberal arts university. Gardner-Webb emphasizes a strong student-centered experience and rigorous academics to prepare students to become effective leaders within the global community. Ignite your future at

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