Distributed to the campus community Feb. 10, 2022 at 3:40 p.m.
We are writing to offer an update to the community on the number of COVID-19 student cases we have seen this week. We had 33 positive cases on Monday, 41 on Tuesday, 45 on Wednesday, and 24 so far today. These cases are split between asymptomatic students and students who are experiencing some, mostly mild, symptoms. While we work through the close contacts of the initial set of positive cases over the next several days, we expect to see the total number of cases grow a bit further but anticipate a peak in the coming days. We have utilized approximately 45% of our isolation capacity. We will update the dashboard as planned on Friday.
We do not know precisely what underlies this burst of cases. While our county case rates have been dropping steadily, they remain high in absolute numbers, so our campus experience is not entirely surprising. We are seeing positive cases among students who have been vaccinated, received their booster, and had a COVID-19 infection last spring or fall. According to the CDC, staying up to date on vaccinations remains a mechanism to help avert the most serious outcomes of COVID-19 but is not an assurance of avoiding COVID-19 entirely.
When a student tests positive for COVID-19, a process begins and includes notifying faculty members that the student should not be in class (the reason is not provided), moving the student to isolation (if appropriate), and identifying close contacts. Faculty members are encouraged to use the data they receive about the numbers of students restricted from class attendance to determine if the disruption is best managed by a brief transition to remote instruction. If so, the class should be notified of the dates and duration of remote instruction. We expect some courses will need to move to remote instruction for all or some portion of next week (Feb. 14-18) depending on the number of students enrolled in the course who are in isolation.
We are looking for faculty and staff volunteers to contact isolated students and ensure they are doing well, having their needs met, keeping up with coursework, and getting any assistance needed. We typically assign two students per isolation buddy and provide a set of FAQs to get you started. Please email Kathy Kaneps, our isolation buddy coordinator, if you are able to volunteer. We hope to get as many volunteers as possible to help us manage the needs of our students.
For students concerned about exposures in areas where others are unmasked, remember it is always possible to take your meals to go from the dining halls. We currently do not anticipate changing our dining venues or hours, but if we need to do so for any reason, we will be specific about what is changing and the expected duration of the change.
While an increase in COVID-19 cases on campus certainly bears monitoring and some modification of behavior is helpful, we knew, given the rapid incubation period and the increased ease of transmission of the omicron variant, that clusters of positive cases could emerge. Our very high vaccination rates have helped members of the community avoid hospitalization, recover quickly, and resume their normal activities. As we navigate the current experience, we urge all members of the community to take the steps that help protect your own and others’ health, including properly wearing your mask indoors and seeking medical care if you have symptoms that include a fever above 100.3, a persistent cough, or a sore throat.
Vice President for Campus Life
COVID-19 Action Group