Dear Allegheny College Campus Community,
Welcome to Spring Semester 2021 at Allegheny College! I have many updates today, both on the COVID-19 response on campus and on ACHA. We are reshaping our efforts in response to feedback from the campus community.
First, an update on the happenings on campus. We welcomed back 43 students on January 18, 2021. A small cohort of employees is also back on campus. Most of these students and employees participated in the Inspire at-home COVID-19 testing protocol; some who did not were excluded due to documented prior COVID-19 infection in the last 90 days. Others returning from international travel completed a non-Inspire COVID-19 test before returning to campus. Out of 97 people tested at home, 96 received negative results. Two students have not yet returned the test and will not return to campus until they do so. Three students had delayed results and waited an additional day until they received their negative results, at which point they moved on campus. We then retested these 97 people on January 18 and found one additional person to be COVID-19 positive. They are currently in isolation; they were feeling poorly but are now improving.
We have begun the at-home testing protocol for faculty and staff so that we can welcome them back to campus as well. Half of those results have been received as of this writing; one person tested positive so far and is isolating at home. We will keep you posted as those results come in; you can also watch for updates on the dashboard.
Note to Students (and their parents!): as we managed the at-home testing process, we noted that the window to return the test and get results is small. ALL STUDENTS SHOULD SWAB THEIR NOSES AND DROP THEIR TEST KITS AT A UPS DROP SITE ON FEBRUARY 15. Check details of your UPS site so that you drop your package before the daily cut-off time on the 15th. This will maximize the likelihood that you have your test result in time to move in on February 18 or 19. There is still a possibility that a few test results will not be available on move-in day; those students will have to wait for their results before they can come to campus. We will get those students to campus as soon as possible. Please complete the Student Information Form by January 29 to convey your ability to complete the at-home test. (You can update the form after the 29th if needed.)
As of this writing, Inspire has shipped at-home test kits to over 300 employees so that they can return to work in person in anticipation of students returning on February 18. We are awaiting their results and will keep you posted. You can also watch the dashboard for updates.
We received feedback that the campus community would like more detailed data on the COVID-19 activity on campus. To respond to this, we have revamped and expanded the case dashboard on the College’s COVID-19 Plans & Resources site. We now show a breakdown of positives by student or employee, and tests administered on campus or off campus (e.g., at home or at an urgent care). We show a breakdown of students in quarantine by close contacts versus recent travel. You will see a new graph detailing the last weeks of testing. We have also included the Crawford County infection rate so we can compare that with our campus positivity rate. Right now, our campus positivity rate is 0.42%, while Crawford County is at 12.9%. We are working hard to make campus as safe as possible.
Given the changes in CDC recommendations and the pandemic, we have updated the reopening guide for Spring 2021. The biggest change is to the travel policy. With COVID-19 infections saturating all communities, we are no longer limiting employees from neighboring counties from working on campus due to changes in COVID-19 rates. Once the campus quarantine is complete (approximately March 4), students will be able to attend same-day medical appointments locally, shop locally, and pick up takeout. However, we are asking students to avoid off-campus leisure and travel as much as possible. As you will see on our dashboard, the positive test rate in Crawford County is currently 12.9%. This means that it is safer to be on campus than in the community. Of course, emergencies happen; quarantine is available (and required) for those who have an unavoidable trip, such as a funeral or critically ill relative. Students should complete the Off-Campus Request form for these situations.
A comment on vaccines… Our partner hospital, Meadville Medical Center, has received praise for its efficient distribution of vaccines. While we are not yet able to vaccinate our student population, many members of our community have reported that they have been vaccinated. A few students who work as EMTs reported being vaccinated. We continue to advocate for our community and will keep you informed.
Another piece of feedback that we received was that our communications are impersonal. The reality is that ACHA is very personal. I, Dr. Morrow, love running ACHA. The students and employees that I have met on campus are warm, wonderful people, happy to be on campus, and apprehensive about COVID-19. Working to keep you safe while learning and working has been a boost for me during the difficult, lonely months of the pandemic. It hasn’t been easy: with remote schooling, my son is often yelling into his computer while I am yelling into mine (sorry, President Link!). But like you, I work, I strive, and I keep checking the CDC website for updates. I look forward to letting you get to know me, and getting to know you, as I work to keep you safe.
Keep in touch. I mean it! Email me. We will get through this together, and I would love to hear from you.