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Campus COVID briefing, Sept. 14, 2020

President Steve Bahls and Dean of Students Dr. Wes Brooks outlined changes in the college's COVID-19 guidelines Sept. 14, 2020.


President Steve Bahls

Hello and good morning. I'm grateful to be here and am so grateful to the Augustana community for the tremendous experience that they've provided over the last two weeks.

We owe the campus community abundant thanks for the many ways that you have worked together to keep Augustana open and thriving. The cooperation and commitment to each other is something we thank you for. We thank you for wearing your masks, maintaining physical distancing, using the Campus Clear application and 
limiting gathering sizes.

My wife, Jane. and I walk the campus very often and we enjoy seeing students. It was an incredibly lonely summer at Augustana College as this campus was largely vacant. It is wonderful to see students fill the campus again, walking the Slough path, enjoying the Gerber Center and going to classes.

This year more than ever I am especially proud and happy to feel the buzz of campus, and while you won't see me smiling as I walk across the Quad because of my mask,  please note that I am so grateful that everyone is back. We have great things going at Augustana College.

We have more classes with live components than most other colleges and universities. We have strong compliance with our social distancing and masking requirements, and we have very few cases of the disease.

Our biggest threat to continuing live classes at Augustana College is complacency. The number of cases outside of Augustana in Rock Island County is still too high, 
 so there is a great need for us to continue our good work and continue to be cautious. Wearing your masks inside and out matters — keeping physical distancing, washing your hands and limiting your gathering sizes.
I want Augustana to be a small school with the biggest heart, the college that did the right things, the college that persevered through this crisis, and the college that has selfless students faculty and staff who understand what matters most.

And with that, let me turn things over to our Dean of Students Dr. Wes Brooks.

Dean of Students Dr. Wes Brooks

Thank you, President Bahls.  

Today marks two weeks since the beginning of the fall 2020 semester, and I'd like to start by updating our campus community on the testing and contact tracing data.

To this point, Augustana College has conducted 614 COVID-19 tests as part of our surveillance testing on campus. Testing takes place on Tuesdays and data is shared through an online dashboard on Mondays. Both students and employees participate in the surveillance testing program. Through the testing we've identified three positive cases, one inconclusive test, and 610 negative tests.

You may find it interesting to know that of those volunteering to be tested in September, we have 49 different academic majors represented; students from 18 different residence halls or transitional living areas; 47 students involved in music offerings; 155 student athletes; and 66 Greek life members. 

In addition, students and employees have contacted the college to share the results of COVID tests administered beyond the college's testing procedures. Those numbers bring the total number of positive student cases to only six at Augustana since the start of the academic year.

To track all of the COVID-19 testing and related concerns, 19 employees have done extensive contact tracing and those people need to be applauded. That is an essential part of our COVID response program, so thank you to our contact tracers.

Current data as of this morning from our contact tracing efforts include only four students in isolation because they are symptomatic or have had a positive COVID-19 test. Zero isolation beds on campus are occupied at this time, as all four of those students are isolating off campus. 

As of today we also have 18 students in quarantine, meaning they have had close contact with someone who is symptomatic or close contact with someone who has a positive COVID-19 test but they themselves have not tested positive at this time. Eight of those 18 students are in quarantine housing on campus, one student is quarantining in place on campus, and the other nine students are off campus.

 Finally we have four students who are sequestering as of this morning because they have had close contact with suspected but unconfirmed cases, one student sequestering on campus, three students sequestering off campus.

These numbers further our strong desire to keep doing the things that lessens the odds of COVID-19 further spreading on Augustana's campus, so today I wanted to update you on our current guidelines that we have in place, but we'll keep most of those restrictions in place moving forward.

For the next two weeks, until September 28th, we'd ask you to do the following: First, stay on campus as much as possible. We recognize Augustana College is not a bubble, but our efforts the last two weeks to minimize off-campus travel have clearly been effective.

Students, you are allowed to travel home. However, please continue to be extremely cautious when leaving campus and we ask that students minimize the number off-campus trips that you take.

As of now, our surveillance data points indicate our community efforts to physically distance, wear face masks, limit group gatherings, minimize contact beyond the Augustana community, and practice good hand hygiene have been effective.

Students residing on campus, you may leave to visit family but you should not visit domestic hot spots or violate other Augie COVID response efforts by not physically distancing, not masking or failing to comply with the Illinois size gathering limit of 50, regardless if you are in Illinois or any other state.

If students are found to be traveling off campus and are not compliant with physical distancing, masking or other group gathering size limits while we are still restricted to limited off-campus departures, student conduct action will be taken and quarantine of those students may be necessary.
The next important restriction is that students should not gather in groups of more than 10 people. This rule applies to all gatherings that are not sponsored by Augustana College such as student activities through the OSL, for example. This 10-person restriction includes gatherings of Augustana students but also gatherings with non-Augustana students gatherings are defined as parties, hanging out, socializing or any other groups of individuals. In short, students should not be socializing in groups more than 10 total people, unless at events sponsored by the college where we know physical distancing and face masks are required, and please know that even when you are adhering to these new size limits of 10 or less physical distancing and masking must continue to be followed. It's for the benefit of the entire community.

Another restriction is that we will have limits for the number of guests in residence halls remain in place. So please do not have more than one guest in a residence hall room.

The college will continue to monitor student behavior, and violations in residence halls and social gatherings of more than 10 students either on or off campus will result in disciplinary processes along with interim actions that will take effect immediately, if and when necessary.

We are also adding a new restriction at this time, which is the restriction on going to the District because bars there have not shared plans to adequately address the spread of COVID-19. 

Students can, however, go to restaurants and other public venues. Until further notice, students who wish to go to restaurants and venues should go only where there are outdoor spaces and use those outdoor spaces only, while at the same time following the college's mask and physical distancing requirements.

Sometimes when you hear what you can't do, you find yourself asking what is allowed. What can I do?

Well, here, let me highlight some of those things for you:
Augustana students can run essential errands, such as going to the grocery store, visiting the pharmacy and getting to a medical provider.

Students should consider carry-out from local restaurants. Certainly, eat in our dining facilities or pick up food to go.

Spend time outside, especially while the weather remains nice, but do so masked.

And attend work both on and off campus again as we said two weeks ago. Please make sure that your employers off-campus are adhering to those COVID guidelines that are set in place by the state.

Please know you can also walk or ride your bike on one of the Quad Cities great trails. Visit our local parks, including Lincoln Park just across 38th Street from the main campus.

Spread a blanket out on the Quad to study, get a Frisbee or a ball and play with friends.

Order food and groceries; have them delivered to campus.

And certainly get a workout in Pepsico, or otherwise engage in the numerous offerings provided by the Office of Student Life and Leadership.

Augustana College is not out of the woods. Our leadership team has monitored other colleges and universities that returned to campus before we did and we can see 
that weeks three and four, which we are now in, appear to be the time when institutions have faced the toughest challenges related to COVID-19. Some institutions have had to transition fully to distance learning, some have quarantined their entire college and others sending students home for the entire remainder of the fall semester.
We do not want this for Augustana. We do not want this for you. And I can tell by the actions of our entire campus community, none of us want that from one another, and I am so grateful to all of you for for working so hard the first two weeks and adhering to our COVID expectations.

So let me conclude with gratitude and thanks. Please keep up the good work and know that like President Bahls, I am incredibly proud of our campus community thanks to each and every one of you for the vital role you play in keeping our campus as healthy as possible.

In the spirit of #vikingstakecare, ee're doing the hard work that is required and we are seeing the results.

On or before September 28th, we will issue additional communication so students, employees and others will have a clear sense at that time of actions that Augustana will adjust or continue. Thanks for listening. Have a great day and a great week.