To the campus community:

We are happy to report that the COVID-19 positive case count has gone down and last week’s spike appears to have concluded. Per our COVID-19 dashboard, we have had single-digit case counts over the last several days. 

We have been able to conduct some analysis of the recent spike that began two weeks ago. Early in the week of Sept. 13 we had 80 positive cases reported in two days. While seeing COVID-19 cases was not unexpected, the number and condensed timeframe created concern among some students, faculty, staff, and families.

In a spirit of community and transparency, we report the data points indicate that in the last two weeks, most of the positive COVID-19 cases were connected to Greek organizations and/or recruitment. As a precaution, we have suspended recruitment activities for two weeks. Those activities may resume once detailed COVID-19 mitigation plans are in place. The data show that very few cases (slightly over 1%) occurred with members of the first-year class.

This early analysis suggests that the typical experiences we enjoy while being together on campus—attending classes and club meetings, participating in College-sponsored events, eating in a dining venue, hanging out on the Quad, attending athletic events—produce a reasonably low level of risk. Events that involve larger numbers of students in very close proximity for longer periods of time, particularly in settings where mask use may not be as rigorous as in the classroom environment, are very likely riskier. 

Breakthrough infections are, unfortunately, becoming more common across the country. While vaccinated individuals continue to be spared from the most serious consequences, namely hospitalization or death, we noticed during the recent COVID-19 spike that most students were symptomatic, experiencing fever, sore throat, and coughs, among other symptoms. This underscores some of our previous messaging that students who experience symptoms for which they would normally seek medical attention (fever above 100.3, persistent coughing, sore throat) should contact Bailey Health Center for a COVID-19 test. If those symptoms develop after hours, students should mask as much as possible and report to the health center the next morning. We also know, however, that many individuals are experiencing colds and other respiratory ailments, which have some of the same symptoms as COVID-19. 

We have taken the following steps to be sure we are prepared to address future spikes in COVID-19 cases should they occur:

  • Restored our partnership with Vault Health to take over weekly PCR testing for students in our required monitoring group and to provide scalable, Zoom-supervised PCR testing if needed in the future. This has the added benefit of freeing up health center staff to see additional patients as needed.
  • Added staffing in the health center to bolster the ability to test students who are experiencing symptoms or who need to do follow-up testing.
  • Added more isolation spaces using hotels with arrangements for student transportation when needed. Students who live within a reasonable driving distance will continue to be expected to isolate at home. 
  • Implemented an emergency grant program for students who return home to isolate and who are isolating in locations where Dining Services can’t deliver food.

We implemented some short-term restrictions to help ensure the safety of the campus while we explored key factors about the numbers, locations, and any possible connections between cases. We must continue to take appropriate measures to protect ourselves and each other:

  • We must all commit to continuing to wear masks inside buildings and be exceptionally vigilant about mask wearing in classes and labs, libraries, and other shared indoor spaces. 
  • Students required to test (unvaccinated individuals, close contacts, symptomatic individuals – fever above 100.3, persistent coughing, sore throat) must appear for testing at the Bailey Health Center. 
  • Wash your hands frequently and don’t share utensils or drinks.

We realize these are difficult times and that the comfort level with COVID-19 has a wide range among us. While there is no perfect balance between restriction and elimination of risk, we do ask that you continue to take responsibility for your actions and support those around you as we work together to create and maintain a healthy community. 

Safer together, stronger together.

Lafayette’s COVID-19 Action Group