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Alum on Front Line of Pandemic: ‘Stay Home’

Chris Arbonies, a New Orleans physician and Park Scholar who helped create the Krispy Kreme Challenge, recently returned to work after recovering from COVID-19 at home. He urges others to follow CDC guidelines for reducing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Chancellor Randy Woodson talks with Chris Arbonies, center, and Chris Cooper about the Krispy Kreme Challenge. File photo.
Chancellor Randy Woodson talks with Chris Arbonies, center, and Chris Cooper about the Krispy Kreme Challenge in 2015. File photo.

For former Park Scholar Chris Arbonies, the outbreak of the novel coronavirus had a deep impact on his personal and professional life.

Last week, the former walk-on member of the NC State men’s basketball team (2003-06) who is now a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician in New Orleans shared that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and is in quarantine at his home.

“First of all, I’m fine,” Arbonies says. “For me, it’s just like having a moderate flu.

“So I’m lucky.”

As a healthcare worker, Arbonies is on the front line of what has become one of the national hot spots for the global pandemic, as New Orleans deals with the aftermath of massive crowds of international tourists gathering for Mardi Gras in mid-February.

“I was exposed by a patient with no known exposure to the virus, meaning they got it from asymptomatic people,” says Arbonies (formerly McCoy), who played in seven games and scored four points as a senior in 2005-06. “I didn’t leave my home other than for work. So my infection is directly due to people not self-isolating properly.”

Arbonies, who is credited with initiating the four-mile run from NC State’s campus to an iconic Person Street doughnut store in downtown Raleigh that became the world-famous Krispy Kreme Challenge, is currently following all CDC-suggested return-to-work protocols for medical personnel and hopes to be back treating patients later this week.

He strongly encourages all NC State students, faculty, staff and supporters to closely follow stay-at-home orders, like the one issued by North Carolina governor Roy Cooper on Monday, and to follow all guidelines for keeping an appropriate distance from other people while in public.

“From a doctor’s perspective, what I need is for people stay home,” Arbonies says. “Social distancing is only leaving your home for groceries once a week, if you can’t get them delivered; for work, if you are an essential worker; or medical care, if you need it and have called ahead to ensure a face-to-face visit. Wash your hands, don’t touch your face, clean everything.

“North Carolina still has a chance to prevent mass infections if everyone takes this seriously and the state shuts down everything.”

While NC State and other North Carolina university campuses have implemented online classes and most nonacademic activities have been canceled, essential workers are keeping campus operations going, on a limited basis.

“People don’t need to panic,” Arbonies says. “They just need to stay home. My experience is that this is bad and it is going to be much worse. But people don’t need to hoard supplies or hunker down in bunkers.

“They just need to stay home.”

Editor’s note: Arbonies returned to work shortly after we posted this article.