November 11, 2020
In recent days, I have heard from several of you and your families regarding the recent increase in the daily positive test results reported on the College’s COVID-19 website. First, let me say that I understand this information can be concerning and perhaps cause anxiety or fear. I am writing to share with you some of the information that eases my own anxiety and makes me and others at the College, including the COVID-19 Institutional Response Team (IRT), confident that the College can continue to safely operate in-person for the remainder of the fall semester and into the spring.
The College continues to closely monitor our own data, in addition to data from the state and our region. As of Monday, November 9, the seven-day rolling COVID-19 positivity rate for Region 8 of Illinois (DuPage and Kane counties) was 13.7% and the overall seven-day rolling positivity rate for Illinois was 10.8%. By comparison, the College’s seven-day rolling positivity rate for the same time period was 6.4%. We have consistently experienced a lower rate since the College implemented its surveillance testing program and started tracking and reporting our own testing data in early August. Additionally, the College’s most recent surveillance testing results show that the number of positive cases of COVID-19 among our campus community continue to decrease since their peak on October 31.
Quarantine & Isolation
Some of you have shared concerns regarding the number of campus community members in quarantine and isolation. There are a couple points worth highlighting here. Let me first remind you of these important distinctions between quarantine and isolation:
Quarantine is an action used to separate and restrict the movement of a healthy person who may have been exposed to a symptomatic person, a probable case, or a person who has tested positive for COVID-19. Quarantine helps stop the spread of the virus in the event that this otherwise healthy person may develop symptoms resulting from their exposure. In accordance with local, state, and federal health guidance, individuals are typically quarantined for 14 days from the date of exposure.
Isolation is a measure used to separate and restrict the movement of an ill person—meaning someone who has tested positive or has a probable case of COVID-19, or someone experiencing COVID-19 symptoms. Isolation helps stop the spread of the virus by ensuring that the ill person does not come in to contact with others. Ill individuals are isolated for the duration of their illness.
Given these definitions, the number of individuals in quarantine or isolation does not directly equate to the number of cases of COVID-19 on our campus. The number of close contacts that an ill individual may have—meaning the number of individuals required to quarantine due to their exposure to that particular person—can and does vary greatly from person to person.
It is also important to note that the College’s quarantine and isolation protocols go above and beyond current health department guidance, as the College made the decision to contact trace individuals who are experiencing symptoms of COVID-19, and not just those who test positive. Therefore, the College’s testing and contact tracing process, together with our quarantine and isolation protocol, results in more individuals in isolation and quarantine than if we were to simply follow the baseline guidance from the health department. We believe that our effort to go further than the recommended guidance is a critical measure that has enabled the College to limit the spread of the virus on our campus and to maintain the health and safety of our campus community.
Health & Safety Compliance
Some of you have also expressed worry that certain individuals have violated the College’s health and safety guidelines and the #TogetherNC pledge by hosting or attending parties and other social gatherings, putting the health and safety of our campus community at risk. Frankly, I think these concerns are valid. While the College’s case numbers have risen at the same time that there have been broader increases across the state and within our region, it’s likely that our peak numbers from late October resulted from this type of behavior. I can assure you, as the dean of students, that the College has and continues to address compliance concerns that are reported. Non-compliance can, and has, resulted in individuals being removed from campus housing, no-trespassed from campus, as well as other appropriate measures that were warranted. I ask that you continue to ensure the safety of our campus by reporting any compliance concerns here.
Campus Mitigation Efforts
Lastly, I want to reiterate that the College’s COVID-19 Institutional Response Team continues to regularly meet to discuss and respond to current information, data, guidance, and procedures. If you have not already, I recommend reading the below correspondence to the North Central community that outlines these most recent efforts:
· Region 8 Restrictions (November 9)
· Additional Mitigation Measures and Contact Tracing Update (November 4)
· Athletics Department COVID-19 Results (October 28)
· COVID-19 Resurgence Restrictions (October 20)
In addition, the College posts all COVID-19-related campus communications, along with the latest COVID-19-related information, at covid.northcentralcollege.edu.