Repopulation: A Strategy To Resume In-person Instruction
The CDC and the PDE have recommended that institutions of higher education develop an approach to resuming residential education or repopulating the campus that brings students back to campus in phases. Lycoming College has adopted this approach because it will allow the College to screen students effectively and orient them to the “COVID” social compact and associated protocols that have been established to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
Lycoming College has consulted with the Infectious Disease Services at UPMC to devise the screening methodology to reduce the risk that an infected returning student will transmit the virus to other community members.
Lycoming College plans to bring students back to campus in phases that begin with international students and students from states where Pennsylvania has recommended a quarantine. The arrival sequence continues with Lycoming Summer Academy participants, residential assistants and student orientation staff, the Class of 2024, and concludes with returning students.
Questions or concerns regarding these protocols and related policies should be directed to the following offices: Vice President and Dean of Students, Associate Dean of Students, Health Services and Human Resources.
- The timing and the number of students in each phase have been structured so as to allow effective temperature screening, and collection and evaluation of responses to questions concerning exposure to COVID-19, including the status of the pandemic in the state from which the student begins travel to return to campus.
- A series of short educational videos is being developed to address issues of social responsibility, health and hygiene, and campus COVID-19 norms. Some videos will be sent to students prior to arrival – including information on packing at least 5-7 washable face coverings – while other videos will be part of the check-in/move-in process.
- The temperature and exposure history screening process will take place upon arrival to campus to identify students who will be required to take a diagnostic test and quarantine.
- Students with an elevated temperature as set by the College in consultation with health professionals or who have been exposed to COVID-19 will be referred to a medical provider with subsequent quarantine protocols enacted.
- Arriving students will be welcome to bring up to three guests who can assist with moving their belongings to their residential hall.
- All guests accompanying the student to assist with move-in will be temperature and symptom screened. Guests with an elevated temperature as set by the College in consultation with health professionals or who have been exposed to COVID-19 will not be allowed to assist the student with move-in. The family member or friend will be isolated in a “hospitality” suite set-up in the Welch Theater Lobby. Clear messaging about the temperature and contact history will be sent to students prior to their arrival so as to reduce the possibility of a guest or student arriving who does not successfully meet the screening measures.
- The phases of repopulation include the following:
- The College will take all reasonable steps to assist international students to return on either July 31 or August 1.
- Following current CDC guidance, students arriving from outside the United States will enter quarantine in designated College properties for a period of 14 days.
- The College will arrange for food service and other essential needs during the quarantine period.
- Students returning to campus from states that have been designated by the Commonwealth as requiring a 14-day quarantine have been advised to return to campus early. See point 5 below for more detail.
- First year students not a member of one of the groups above will come to campus over the weekend of August 15 and 16.
- The Office of the Dean of First-Year Students is responsible for coordinating arrival and orientation of the Class of 2024.
- Arrival of upper-class students not in one of the groups above will take place from August 16 through August 19.
- Upper-class students will be assigned an arrival date.
- Residential Life will send upper-class students their arrival date and time.
Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Health issued guidance stating that persons who have traveled, or plan to travel, to an area where there are high amounts of COVID-19 cases will need to quarantine for 14 days upon their return to Pennsylvania. The Department of Health identifies specific states to which this expectation of quarantining applies: https://www.health.pa.gov/topics/disease/coronavirus/Pages/Travelers.aspx
The College recognizes that this quarantine has social and financial implications for students and their families. While in quarantine, the College will assume the cost of housing, food, and access to the internet. Activities will be planned by the College, but students are encouraged to offer their own suggestions and ideas for activities while in quarantine. Activities will be expected to adhere to public health guidance concerning the reduction of the risk of transmission of COVID-19.
- The following are specific guidelines that apply to students required to quarantine prior to the semester. Students in quarantine:
- are required to follow directions of College officials;
- will have the support of Public Safety and Health Services;
- will have the option of food delivery prepared by dining services or items from the College’s food pantry;
- will be allowed outside for recreational or well-being purposes. While outside students are to adhere to physical distancing (six feet) and if unable to do so are to wear a face covering;
- will remain in quarantine for fourteen days, a period which is subject to change based on the onset of symptoms or exposure to a person either presumed to have COVID-19 or a person who tested positive for COVID-19;
- will avoid direct physical contact with others. Adhere to physical distancing (six feet) and wear a face covering when in the company of others;
- will receive no outside visitors;
- for medical attention, will contact Public Safety at (570) 321-4064;
- will wash hands frequently and properly with soap and sanitizers to maintain proper hygiene;
- will not share household or personal items;
- will wash and sanitize an item if it is used by more than one person, prior to use by another person.
- will participate in daily temperature screenings and will be monitored daily for symptoms associated with COVID-19;
- will contact Public Safety at (570) 321-4064 if they are experiencing symptoms, and that Office will arrange for a College official or health professional to contact the student.
The United States is currently experiencing the highest daily levels of new infections, hospitalizations and deaths since the beginning of the pandemic. Lycoming County has also been experiencing significantly higher rates of community transmission than during the fall semester. While these factors are worrisome, it is also the case that epidemiologists and health care providers understand much more about how the COVID-19 virus is transmitted, what measures work in containing spread, and how to treat persons who become infected. The Lycoming spring protocols for repopulating the campus are informed by both the reality of the current phase of the pandemic and the advice of infectious disease experts.
While the Spring Repopulation Protocols introduce the use of asymptomatic testing as the campus is repopulated, it is very important to recognize that this step is complementary to and not a replacement for the wearing of face coverings, physical distancing, good hygiene and limiting the size of gatherings—both inside and outside. Until most of the campus population has been vaccinated, it will be necessary to continue with all the behaviors that allowed us to complete the fall semester in residence.
The Spring Repopulation Schedule: An Overview
From the time that students begin arriving on campus until in-person classes begin on February 1, Spring Repopulation Protocols will be in effect. The most important parts of this protocol include the following:
- In-person classes will begin on February 1, which means that most classes will begin with one or two remote meetings
- A Spring Repopulation Testing Plan
- Take-out only food service
- Few restrictions on movement outdoors
- Restrictions on gathering indoors
Resumption of In-person Teaching
The College’s plan for the spring semester is the same as the fall; almost all classes will be taught in-person. After a three-day period of remote meetings that allow for the testing program to be completed, we will resume the in-person instruction similar to the fall.
Spring Repopulation Protocols: Testing
All students are required to participate in a testing program that involves three COVID-19 point-of-care antigen tests taken over a seven-day period. The purpose of this testing is to reduce the possibility of an early outbreak that would disrupt our shared commitment to completing another semester of residential in-person education.
This testing program will help identify any students who may be unknowingly returning to campus with a COVID-19 infection. Experts have advised us that more than one test is required to achieve sufficient confidence that we can reasonably expect to reduce the risk of an early outbreak. Students who test positive will be referred to the Health Center for further evaluation by a UPMC physician and will go into isolation housing on campus. We have set aside what is expected to be an ample number of beds.
This test does not require the kind of deep penetration into the nostrils that is part of some testing procedures. For the tests that Lycoming is utilizing, the swab only needs to be inserted far enough so that the tip is no longer visible. Students will be given the option of doing the swab themselves under the supervision of a health professional or having the health professional perform the collection of the sample. Moreover, results from each round of test should be available within no more than one hour.
Spring Repopulation Protocols: Movement Around Campus
Epidemiologists have now concluded that the risk of COVID transmission outdoors is much less than indoors. Following this science, we will all need to avoid indoor gatherings during the Spring Repopulation Period. More specifically, until February 1, the period of the Spring Repopulation Protocols, buildings, lounges, laundry rooms, and other spaces for indoor gatherings will be closed.
Movement outdoors (walking, running, getting fresh air, chatting in physically distanced small groups, etc.) will be encouraged. Given the more elevated numbers of infections in Lycoming County, however, students are strongly discouraged from going to any off-campus indoor locations during the Spring Repopulation Period.
Food Service During the Spring Repopulation Period
Consistent with the importance of limiting indoor gatherings until all students have been tested, food service will be take-out only until February 1. This step is an important one until testing has been completed, and we ask for your patience and cooperation with this step.
During the fall semester, the Lycoming community lived and learned together in a spirit of social responsibility that nurtured a culture of compliance. As a result, we remained a healthy community and operated in a way consistent with our mission as a residential college. With the help of every student in executing the spring plan, we can have a similar experience in the spring.