On Saturday, the Office of the President announced that there are currently five positive COVID-19 cases on campus, bringing the total number of identified positive cases from the first day of testing to 17. Along with this came indication of a positive COVID-19 case within the fraternities after wastewater testing results came back.
“We are doing what we are doing to not end up like Olivet, who just went online for the next two weeks at least,” said Albion College President Dr. Mathew Johnson, via email. “We are so impressed by the majority of students who have been increasing their use of the app and their compliance with the public health protocols.”
Due to the uptick in positive COVID-19 cases on campus, extra precautions are being taken to limit the potential of a campus outbreak. Students will undergo another round of COVID-19 testing Monday and Tuesday of this week. With this comes additional rules and protocols students must follow in order to limit the potential threat of an outbreak on campus.
“Prior to this uptick, we had begun preparing for dining in the dining hall and other measures that would ease life on campus because student compliance was continuing to move up and approach the green status in our risk report card,” said Johnson. “If we move back to the condition we were in a week or so ago, with high levels of compliance on the core features of the public health protocol (testing on time, daily health reports, appropriate mask-wearing, physical distancing, and maintaining the bubble by respecting the processes we have in place to request movement outside the bubble) then we will be able to again begin to considering loosening up.”
There is evidence that the college’s recent positive cases result from violations of the college’s Together Safely protocols, more specifically with regard to unapproved travel outside the safe zone bubble and visiting other residential facilities.
“We will return to the state we were in later this week if the testing gives us confidence that we have a good handle on the infections on campus. I cannot emphasize enough that if we all just did the basics, we could all relax the restrictions,” said Johnson. “Compliance is the key to allowing us to keep everyone safe while relaxing restrictions within the bubble. The current situation is largely caused by a very small number of students (2-4) not respecting the basic rules.”
Due to the actions of these few putting the community at risk, all programs and activities on campus, for the time being, must be held in a strictly virtual format until further notice. This includes student employment. Students who hold on-campus jobs that cannot be conducted virtually must cease employment for the time being.
Athletics have been suspended until further notice as well. With this, coaches have told athletes that they are not allowed to hold practice, nor are athletes allowed to practice on their own, including doing isolated activities like running.
“All physical activity expels respiratory droplets. Walkers and runners are often sharing the sidewalk or road with others in the community,” said Johnson. “For the next few days, until we know how widespread infections may be, we need to be extra cautious about the potential to spread the virus within the campus and to others outside the campus. The Department of Public Health is always concerned about infections on campus spreading into the community and has made clear this could be grounds for closing campus in the future if we do not monitor infections well and prevent them from leaving campus and spreading in the community.”
In order to prevent infections from spreading into the community, outside of their residential locations, student activity will be limited for the time being. Students will be allowed to attend classes, tutoring and other academic support meetings.
Students are also allowed to pick up packages from the KC, necessary items from the book store and food from Baldwin or the Eat Shop. Students have also been informed that they can continue on picking up their groceries from Meijer and Kroger in Jackson with approval from the college.
Students are not, however, able to utilize drive-through locations, including Biggby, McDonalds, Taco Bell and more, as the college awaits testing results.
“For the next few days, the drive-through is no longer approved,” said Johnson. “Drive-through has a much higher potential to involve contact that could lead to transmission.”
Although the library is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., those hours are limited to resource pickup. The library will not be available for students to study.
Given that all non-academic activities on campus are temporarily suspended, The Dow Recreation and Wellness Center, including the Serra Fitness Center, the outdoor fitness tent and the multipurpose room, will be unavailable for student use.
Additionally, off-campus visitation is temporarily suspended for the next few days as the college inspects the degree of infection on campus.
As the college makes moves toward preventing an outbreak on campus, Dean Leroy Wright and the Student Development team will be playing an active role in the student conduct process. Students who fail to comply with college protocols face potential suspension or expulsion depending on the degree of the rule violation.
Violations of college protocols include moving between residence halls, unapproved social gatherings, leaving campus without prior approval from the college and failing to complete the daily health report in the Aura app.
Students who do not comply with testing protocols this Monday and Tuesday face the potential for temporary suspension, effective immediately.
These temporary additional rules and regulations are not just limited to the student population. Staff and faculty are subject to following Together Safely protocols as well.
“Whenever a faculty or staff person is determined to be positive for COVID-19, they are immediately put in isolation status at their home and the Department of Public Health works with them to determine who has been a close contact and should also be quarantined,” said Johnson. “They cannot report for work on campus until cleared by the Health Department.”
Currently, the college is looking ahead to Wednesday, the earliest date when student test results will begin to roll in. After all test results have been received, the college plans to revisit the temporary cancelation of in-person programming on campus.
“The most important thing that we can do is redouble our effort to preserve the bubble and prevent the importation of new infections from outside Albion,” said Johnson. “After that, wearing masks, daily health reports, testing and physical distancing. If an infection is imported from outside, and we are wearing masks, physical distancing, and doing our daily health report and testing, we can catch it and isolate it before it can spread. If we can get to no internal infections, we can then begin to loosen up within the bubble.”