Wednesday, October 28, 2020

This rather extensive information sheet is provided to help the community understand the current COVID-19 status of the campus, the actions being taken, and the results we are experiencing. It is also important to correct misinformation and dispel rumors related to COVID19. The particular items addressed below are drawn from emails, voicemails, and conversations with members of the community.

Current Status

Like much of the rest of the state, we have had an uptick in positive cases in the last week. We learned on Tuesday (10/27) that 5 more students tested positive. We had 6 positive cases during the previous seven days, so in a bit more than a week, we have had 11 positives. These students and their direct contacts are being cared for. We fully anticipated that our campus community would be affected by positive cases this semester and we created a robust plan to deal with such an eventuality.

It should be pointed out that we are still doing remarkably well as compared to other institutions.

Student Compliance

There are several reasons why we are doing so well. The biggest reason is that the vast majority of students ARE following protocols regarding face masks, getting tested, social distancing, hand washing, room occupancy limits, and calling the health center when they do not feel well. When we identify those that aren't following protocols they are being addressed through the conduct system.

We truly appreciate everyone's cooperation and vigilance in following the safety protocols!

Note: We have received reports about specific individuals' non-compliance with protocols. Please know that we follow up on these reports, but we cannot act without evidence if they deny the violations.

COVID Occupancy Limits

As well as we are doing, there are still students who are exceeding the COVID occupancy limits and getting suspended from housing. We don't want to send anyone home, so PLEASE do not exceed the limits!

Aggressive Follow-up

Another important reason why we are doing well is the high degree of surveillance testing being done (almost 2/3 of the student population is being tested every week). Beyond that and unlike almost every other institution, we are doing our own contact tracing. Upon the identification of a positive test result, our contact tracing team goes to work and often completes the identification of confirmed direct contacts within two hours. This means that possible transmitters of the virus are moved into quarantine housing almost immediately. This helps to dramatically slow the spread of the virus.

Additionally, we go beyond the standard practice of focusing on positive cases and their confirmed direct contacts. We also test all members of the floor of the residence hall that the positive individual lives on and those people are asked to self-quarantine until they receive a negative test result. Additionally, if the student is a member of an athletics team, their teammates are tested and asked to self-quarantine (and not practice) until a negative test result is obtained.

So, while, to some students, it feels like there is a huge outbreak on campus; there isn't! There is just a lot of work and a lot of testing being done to avoid an outbreak.

That said, we cannot guarantee that we can make the campus 100% safe. It will require all of us to continue following protocols in order to ensure that we all make it to November 20th.

Lakeside Hall

We want to thank the residents of the first three floors of Lakeside Hall for their cooperation in generating additional quarantine spaces. These students have been moved off the floor and consolidated in order to generate additional rooms for direct contact (not COVID positive) students to quarantine. We appreciate the inconvenience they have endured to help keep as many students on campus as possible.

Cheney vs. Residence Hall Rooms

Some students have asked why students can sit around a table in Cheney and not wear their masks while eating, yet not be able to gather in larger numbers in a residence hall room even if wearing masks. There are several reasons for this (other than you can't actually eat while wearing a mask):

  1. Cheney has been de-densified, but the residence halls cannot be similarly arranged.
  2. The ceilings are higher and the ventilation is better in Cheney than in any residence hall room.
  3. Cheney is in a near constant state of being cleaned and sanitized, while residence hall rooms are not.
  4. Students requested specific numbers for the definition of "large social gatherings" in the residence hall and these were provided during the first week of classes.

Counseling Center Waiting List

There is currently a waiting list in the Counseling Center and students are being scheduled for an appointment as quickly as possible. Brian Krylowicz, the director, has already hired two part- time counselors and is looking for more. They have shortened the wait time significantly. There is also a search underway for another full-time therapist to be added to the staff.

Travel off campus

Some students have asked why we let students go home on the long Indigenous Peoples’ Day weekend. Though we have encouraged students to limit their time away from campus, we have not prohibited student travel this semester. We are unable to enforce such a policy. Every day we have students going off campus to jobs, internships, student teaching, clinicals, etc. Students also run errands in the local area and have reasons to travel home for various commitments. We have asked all members of our community to practice COVID-19 safety measures when away from campus for any reason and for any length of time. Additionally, given the stress of the midterm of the semester, coupled with the stress of the pandemic, it was important for students to have the opportunity to get away and go home to their family for the weekend.

CT Travel Advisory

Connecticut has added Massachusetts to its list of “affected” states. However, Connecticut residents who visit or work in Massachusetts are exempt from the requirements of quarantine, testing, or the completion of a travel form if they remain in Massachusetts for less than 24 hours before returning to Connecticut. So this excludes faculty, staff, and commuter students who do not stay overnight in Massachusetts, but residential students from Connecticut will be subject to the restrictions and should plan their travel to Connecticut accordingly.

More information may be found at ct.gov/coronavirus

Finally…

You are doing great!
Wear your masks!
Wash your hands!
Maintain social distance!
Keep your testing appointment!
Call the health center if you are feeling ill!
Don't exceed COVID room limits!
Thanks!