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COVID-19 September 2 Update

As time allows, I will provide updates to keep you (specifically our faculty and staff) informed about SAU’s “Life with COVID.” Here are a few items to share about how the first few days are going.

By the Numbers

SAU is communicating COVID numbers at least weekly, but as we’re able, it may be updated more frequently. The information is navigable from our general COVID website (www.arbor.edu/covid), but you can link directly to the information at www.arbor.edu/covidcount.

We tested our largest numbers of students Aug 28-31, ranging from 100-200 per day. Initially, the lab results showed that ALL students tested in the first two days were negative, and I shared that fantastic news with Cabinet. However, we came to learn late on Monday, Aug 31 that there was a glitch in the reporting mechanism from the lab. Tests that appeared negative in the portal view–with none of the normal flags or visual indicators–were actually positive. Instead of 0 positives in the first two days, we had 3 positive cases each day. Another test from Aug 30 also came back positive, for a total of 7 we had to inform of the error, with our deepest regrets. We have continued to support Jackson County Health Department’s efforts to contact trace, and anyone with “close contact” (being within 6’ for 15 minutes or more) should be contacted. We can’t know for certain, but given the students’ arrival to us being COVID positive and asymptomatic (with test results potentially showing positive for 3 months or more), we’re hopeful these students had COVID quite a while ago and are not contagious at this point—leaving us with the necessity to do the isolation/quarantine, but our anxiety is reduced.

Regarding the numbers of students utilizing on-campus isolation and quarantine housing, we have 3 students in isolation housing (those who have tested positive), and 4 students in quarantine (those in ‘close contact’ with those who test positive). All other students needing to isolate or quarantine are doing so at home—which is our preferred location since it’s where they will be most comfortable. Some might have heard Dr. Fauci this morning recommend students quarantine on-campus; we have discussed this with JCHD and agree that home is better because of our larger floors and communal bathroom facilities. For colleges and universities that have private apartments and bathrooms, that might make more sense.

In addition to those required to study remotely due to JCHD orders to isolate/quarantine, 10 applications have been reviewed and accepted for those requesting to study remotely this semester for various reasons.

Large Gathering

A (non-SAU-sponsored) event on-campus has sent another 15 students into quarantine. As a result of our interviews with students who tested positive, we learned about a gathering of about 15 students in a student’s room on Sunday evening (in violation of our COVID-revised visitation policies). All those students are now in quarantine due to their close contact. We are working on a video and other ‘public service announcements’ encouraging students to take these guidelines seriously.

Quarantined Students

Some of you may be instructors in a class where a student is now isolated or quarantined. That news should not automatically cause great concern. If students and instructors are all socially distanced and wearing masks, it has been my experience that JCHD would not quarantine. According to the CDC, “close contact” that triggers quarantine includes:

  • You were within 6 feet of someone who has COVID-19 for a total of 15 minutes or more
  • You provided care at home to someone who is sick with COVID-19
  • You had direct physical contact with the person (hugged or kissed them)
  • You shared eating or drinking utensils
  • They sneezed, coughed, or somehow got respiratory droplets on you

So, unless any of these have occurred, the recommendation is to continue to do your daily health screening and monitor any symptoms that might occur—and continue to social distance, wear your masks, and wash your hands often. 

Masks

Our biggest general challenge to-date seems to be with students wearing their masks outdoors when unable to maintain social distancing. Students are spending more and more time outdoors, and the assumption might be that masks are unnecessary in that context. While the risk is lower, it’s not non-existent. Walking side-by-side and sitting on benches together are certainly closer than 6’ and aerosols can spread even outdoors. Whatever you can do to encourage wearing masks even outdoors—so that no one group must be the “COVID police”—we would greatly appreciate it.

And just a reminder on the masks: individuals may not refuse to wear a face covering. An accommodation may be made with documentation from a licensed medical professional to the Academic Success Center for students or to HR for employees – but the accommodation will be for a specialized face shield, not nothing at all. So if you see someone without anything and they indicate a medical condition, please direct them immediately to Manda Kelly or Kerry Klee-Tiesman (or their respective departments).

QR Codes

We regret the glitch on the first morning, but the QR codes now work as expected. Occasionally one might say it’s expired. Feel free to let me know (corey.ross@arbor.edu) and we’ll get a replacement. Please encourage students to check-in to each class before you begin–and check-in yourself, if you would. It’s simply to supplement folks’ memories with contact tracing if any concerns arise.

That’s all I have for now…please let me know if you have any questions—but know that it might take a little longer than usual to respond. Another great resources are the folks at Holton Health: holtonhealth@arbor.edu.

Corey R. Ross Vice President for Student Development and Success