Dear North Central College Campus Community,
We continue to be pleased by the many ways in which we see students, faculty and staff upholding their commitment to the College’s policies and our shared #TogetherNC pledge. We know that many of you have been paying close attention to the number of positive COVID-19 tests among our campus community. That number currently stands at 25 individuals since the College’s official COVD-19 testing protocol was implemented on August 6. If you are following the news of COVID-19 outbreaks on other college campuses, the relatively low number of positive test results among our campus community is something we should all be proud of. At the same time, we recognize that the landscape can change quickly and that every positive test result represents an ill person—a friend, a classmate, a colleague, a teammate—which can be worrisome, not only for that person and their family, but for others with whom they’ve been in contact.
We are writing to provide additional details and context regarding the College’s contact tracing program, which is a critical component in our ongoing efforts to minimize the spread of COVID-19 and to continue an in-person experience for our students. As was communicated last week, the College recently added two full-time contact tracers and case managers to the Dyson Wellness Center (DWC) team to bolster what has already proven to be a thorough and effective contact tracing program, thanks to the tireless efforts of the DWC staff.
There are a number of important things to know and understand about the contact tracing process, as well as what it means to be in isolation or quarantine.
· When a member of our campus community tests positive for COVID-19—either through the College’s own testing program, or through another healthcare provider—they are required to self-isolate for two weeks. Each known positive test initiates the College’s contact tracing process, which can lead to numerous other individuals who, based on their level of contact, may be required to quarantine for two weeks prior to returning to campus.
· If an individual has been instructed to quarantine, it does not mean they have COVID-19; rather, it means that, based on the kind of contact they’ve had with others, they may have been exposed to the virus and are thus at increased risk for contracting the disease and exposing others.
· The College treats individuals exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms the same as those who have tested positive for COVID-19 in terms of contact tracing and requirements to isolate or quarantine. Treating cases of symptomatic individuals in this manner allows us to act quickly to minimize the potential spread of COVID-19.
· In some cases (but not all), if a symptomatic individual’s test comes back as negative for COVID-19, anyone previously required to quarantine would then be immediately released. In other cases, a contact tracer/case manager, in consultation with medical staff and, where appropriate, the department of public health, will evaluate the details of an individual case before releasing close contacts from quarantine.
· The requirement for an individual to quarantine is based on their level of contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Important distinctions are defined here:
o Physical Contact: Anyone who had physical contact with a symptomatic individual; will be instructed to get tested and to quarantine for 14 days.
o Close Contact: Anyone who was within less than six feet of a symptomatic individual for more than 15 minutes; will be instructed to get tested and to quarantine for 14 days.
o Proximate Contact: Anyone who was more than six feet from the symptomatic individual for approximately one hour or more, such as a classmate or co-worker; will be instructed to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms, but will not be instructed to quarantine.
· For example, if you are aware of an individual in one of your classes or in your building who has tested positive for COVID-19 or who has been instructed by the College’s contract tracers/case managers to quarantine, you will likely be considered a “proximate contact” and should simply self-monitor for symptoms, unless you have been directly contacted by a contact tracer and instructed otherwise.
Course Shift to Remote Format
· Faculty may not shift to remote instruction simply because they have received notification that a student in their class has been instructed to quarantine.
· If an instructor is notified by a contact tracer/case manager that they are either a physical or close contact to someone with COVID-19, in consultation with the department chair and the dean, the course will be temporarily converted to a remote format until the quarantine period expires. Students in the course will be notified of the temporary shift.
· Students who are instructed to quarantine will temporarily shift to a remote format for any courses that are delivered in person, and will continue to receive remote instruction for their remaining courses.
· Students who are in isolation but are still well enough to attend classes may also shift to a remote format.
All further questions about when a class may shift to remote instruction should be addressed to the Provost’s Office.
The College’s protocols and programs exist so that if someone is symptomatic or contracts COVID-19, we can act quickly to prevent the spread to others. By adhering to the #TogetherNC pledge—which includes wearing face coverings, maintaining six or more feet of physical distance from others, using the #CampusClear app to self-monitor for symptoms, and staying home when sick—we can dramatically reduce the transmission of COVID-19. It will remain important for each and every one of us to uphold our end of the pledge and to be willing participants in the College’s testing and contact tracing processes.
Contact tracing can be complicated and can have far-reaching effects. In the coming weeks, the College will roll out a #TogetherNC social media campaign to help further explain the testing and contact tracking processes, and we will continue to provide updates at covid.northcentralcollege.edu.
Thank you for your continuing commitment and we wish you good health.
Dr. Peter Barger
Assistant Provost; Director of Institutional Effectiveness and Planning
Co-Chair COVID-19 Institutional Response Team
Dr. Kimberly Sluis
Vice President for Student Affairs and Strategic Initiatives
Co-Chair COVID-19 Institutional Response Team