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Chapman University president self-isolating at home after testing positive for coronavirus

Daniele Struppa, center, with wife Lisa Sparks in Nov. 2019.
Chapman University President Daniele Struppa, center, with wife Lisa Sparks, at a Nov. 20, 2019 launch event. Struppa announced last Wednesday he was self-isolating at home after contracting the coronavirus.
(Scott Smeltzer / Staff Photographer)

As Chapman University students crammed for exams last week before the end of fall semester, President Daniele Struppa announced he was self-isolating at home after testing positive last Wednesday for the coronavirus.

“I want to share the news that today I tested positive for COVID-19,” Struppa began in a Dec. 16 message to staff, faculty and students. “I am feeling tired and am resting at home, but overall, my symptoms are not extreme and currently limited to a slight fever and cough.”

Struppa, 65, said he likely caught the virus from his 16-year-old daughter, who’d tested positive on Monday, the same day he himself began experiencing symptoms. Given the timing of everything, Struppa estimated his window of contagion likely began sometime around Dec. 12.

“Since the stay-at-home order, my contact with the community has been very limited,” he continued. “I am working with our contact tracing team to ensure we identify any possible exposure so we can limit the possible spread.”

Early in the pandemic, Chapman University officials established a line of succession in the event senior staff members should fall ill or become incapacitated, Struppa said in the announcement. The move was made to ensure the institution would “continue to function smoothly during this period.”

In a follow-up video made Thursday, the president thanked students, staff and faculty for their overwhelming comments and correspondences conveying their support. He said his daughter’s best friend had also been stricken by coronavirus and, since her parents were out of town, was staying with them.

“We now have three corona people in this house — it’s definitely the house of corona,” he said.

According to an online dashboard intended to track the number of confirmed coronavirus cases on campus, as of Tuesday, a total of 44 infected individuals were identified, including five students living on campus, 33 students living off campus, four staff members and two faculty members.

A resident of Newport Beach, Struppa is married to Orange County Board of Education member Lisa Sparks. In July, the board approved a recommendation to reopen county public schools without mask and social-distancing mandates, with Sparks voting in favor of the measure.

Lawyers representing the county school board in August filed a lawsuit with the state Supreme Court challenging Gov. Gavin Newsom’s authority to issue health orders during an emergency, but the court ultimately refused to hear the matter.

Struppa said he planned to self-isolate and work remotely from home in the coming weeks.

“Thank you for your affection and for your prayers,” he said in his Thursday’s video message, recorded in his bedroom-turned-office. “I look forward to seeing you all again pretty soon.”

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