I want to follow up on my communication from earlier this week and provide an update on our community's viral health.
Testing to date: We’ve been actively testing students. This includes our first two rounds of weekly signal testing, which gives us a snapshot of a percentage of the campus community, and diagnostic testing of individuals who are showing symptoms.
When I emailed yesterday, we had no confirmed cases of COVID. This morning, we received our first positive test results. As of this afternoon, our testing has identified fewer than 5 positive cases on campus (based on a data-reporting protocol designed by our epidemiologists, and in order to protect confidentiality, when the number of new cases is between zero and five we will report this less than or equal to five). We expected that our signal testing would locate some asymptomatic cases, which it did.
We have been planning and preparing for this scenario with a team of epidemiologists. We are now following our protocol:
- We are executing contact tracing in partnership with the Licking County Health Department.
- Anyone who has come in close contact with these individuals will be informed through that process. Please remember that close contact is defined as any individual within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.
- Those identified as close contacts will be quarantined and tested based on our protocol.
Contact tracing and quarenteening are important. It is also important that we abide by confidentiality laws. The university cannot release the names of individuals who are being tested (and in quarantine) or who have tested positive for COVID-19. We ask the same of you. Please do not share information about anyone you believe to be or know is being tested or has tested positive, that includes sharing information on social media. We will inform those who have come in close contact immediately and will keep the community apprised of new cases via the weekly COVID-19 dashboard on MyDenison.edu.
We are going to have COVID cases on campus. Our goal is to minimize the spread. I want to reinforce the importance of:
- Hand washing and sanitizing. Frequent washing and sanitizing is one of the best ways we can limit the spread of COVID-19.
- Mask wearing. I will continue to repeat this over and over again - they are required indoors and must be worn outdoors when distancing cannot be maintained. Individuals who willfully or repeatedly violate the mask guidelines will be asked to leave campus.
- Physical Distancing. We should be maintaining six feet of distance at all times, even outdoors. If six feet of distance cannot be maintained outdoors, masks are required. No exceptions. If you are eating or drinking and, therefore, cannot wear a mask, you must maintain six feet of distance.
- Socializing responsibility. Following the rules of distancing and mask wearing, students can socialize safely outside in groups of ten or fewer - again, there can be multiple groups of ten in one outdoor space but there must be distance between individuals and groups. We will continue to have campus safety and other university staff and administrators on campus during evenings and weekends monitoring social gatherings. We will work with students who commit to socializing responsibility outside. Indoor gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited. Gatherings of any size in residence hall rooms or apartments are strictly prohibited. Students who violate these rules will be asked to leave campus.
- Staying home if you are ill. Do not leave your room/apartment (student) or come to campus (faculty or staff) if you have any symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Students should track symptoms via the MyWellness portal and call the Wellness Center at 740-587-6200 and faculty and staff should contact the employee symptoms hotline at COVID19Questions@denison.edu or call Angie Ferrell, Nurse Practitioner at Denison, at 740-587-5597.
- Participating fully and honestly in symptom monitoring and contact tracing. We have had exceptional compliance with symptom monitoring and reporting. Thank you! We need this to continue. Additionally, those who receive a call from a contact tracer must also fully participate and answer all questions accurately and completely.
- Staying on campus. No off campus travel except when essential items cannot be procured on campus or through delivery. Students may not patronize bars and restaurants off campus. Food delivery is available and encouraged.
We have received some questions about testing, isolation and quarantine so I want to address them.
Testing of symptomatic students will take place 7 days a week. Signal testing will happen every Monday. We expect tests back within two days (depending on lab volume). Denison’s diagnostic (symptom) tests are being prioritized by the OSU lab.
In addition, we will shortly (September) have access to a test that we can administer and process in our Wellness Center and receive results within 15 minutes. We will use this test only for classically symptomatic students. The test has too high of a false negative rate for our comfort level so if that test comes back negative we will do another test and send it to OSU.
Regarding quarantine, members of the community identified through the contact-tracing process as having been in close contact with someone with a confirmed case of COVID-19 will be required to quarantine. In alignment with CDC guidelines, those who have been exposed will remain in quarantine for 14 days from the date of exposure and must remain symptom-free during the 14 days. Some individuals may be placed in quarantine if they have symptoms but have no known close contacts with individuals who have tested positive. In those cases, individuals may be medically released from quarantine prior to 14 days.
Regarding isolation, once an individual has tested positive for COVID-19, they will be required to isolate until they are absent of fever for three days without the use of fever-reducing medications, respiratory symptoms have improved and at least ten days have passed since the onset of symptoms.
A final comment: All of this is hard. We are all getting used to a new reality. This moment requires a lot of us. Staying healthy, and staying on The Hill, demands that we are relentless in adhering to our community agreement.
I will continue to provide regular campus updates. For now, I plan to communicate at least twice a week but I may communicate more if necessary. We will also update our weekly dashboard report on Tuesdays on MyDenison.edu.