Albion College’s Together Safely plan limits students’ whereabouts within an Albion safe zone bubble to prevent potential spread of COVID-19. The plan requires students to fill out a form whenever they have a request to leave the bubble. In order to make the safe zone bubble more extensive, the college has partnered with some local businesses.
Students do not need prior approval to visit any of these locations, but students who are currently in self-quarantine, quarantine or isolation are not allowed to access any of these locations.
If a student were to leave the safe zone bubble, the college and that set student would receive a notification. The student’s keycard access would be disabled if the student failed to return within the safe zone bubble.
The local businesses partnered with Albion college allowing walk-in visits include the Albion Malleable Brewing Company; Biggby; The Bohm Theatre; Cuts by Moose; Dickerson Music Company; Gina’s Pizza and Deli; Lopez Taco House; Noon or Night Recording Studio; Stirling Books and Brew; and Superior Nutrition.
Students are also approved to visit any drive-through business within the Albion city limits, which include Arby’s, Bigby, Homestead Savings Bank, KFC, McDonald’s, Taco Bell and Young’s HomeTown Pharmacy. Other interested parties in the safe zone bubble include the Equestrian Center, Whitehouse Nature Center, Riverside Cemetery, Reiger and Victory Parks and the Albion river walk.
Although students are allowed to access these businesses, the walk-in approved businesses are no exception to the COVID-19 guidelines Albion College faculty follow.
“We expect a business to follow whatever guidelines the county health organization has for that kind of business,” said Bob Anderson, the vice president for alumni relations and advancement. “Then, we’re asking that all of their employees be tested who are in the location where students would access.”
Albion College offers partnered local businesses three ways to get tested for COVID-19. One way accessible testing in the gymnasium of Washington Gardner provided by the college for state testing. A second way is many employers can use their personal health insurance coverage for testing. The third and final opportunity is to use the college testing process on the same schedule as Albion College faculty.
Employees of businesses included in the safe zone bubble will be tested at the same rate as students, faculty and staff at the college. Hypothetically, this means that if Albion College is testing weekly, so will the business employees. If case loads indicate that it’s safe enough to test bi-weekly, so employees would also move to a bi-weekly testing schedule.
“We feel if we’re asking our students to stay within this bubble, we owe it to our students to offer the strongest safety program we can,” said Anderson. “That’s why we have limited to these businesses.”
In addition to following the Calhoun County Health guidelines, the partnered businesses are required to immediately communicate to the college if an employee tests positive.
“Basically, what we want to do is create within this bubble some safety so that students know if they’re going to an approved business, they’re going to a place where the chances of catching COVID are far less because of this testing protocol and because we know that they’re following the county health guidelines,” said Anderson.
The college will make students aware of the positive and work with the business to provide proper medication and appropriate safety protocols before it is safe for students to visit again.
“It’s a great program,” said Christina Wixson, owner of Superior Nutrition. “Ever since they received the list, we started seeing more and more college students everyday. It had benefited us.”
Although the college is offering students the option to order and pick-up items from Meijer and Kroger, they are currently working with their food service provider to open up a grocery store as well.
“There was a survey in the initial notice that went out that I think a lot of students missed, but that was to say ‘Okay, if we had a grocery store on campus what kind of things would you regularly buy?’” said Anderson. “So, we’re working on that right now, and we’re hoping to get something open as quickly as possible. But it might be another couple of weeks, but maybe not.”