Dear students,

We are three weeks into the semester, and yet we know there are a lot of outstanding questions that need clarifying.  With that in mind, we’ve decided to use this week’s communication to answer your questions. We know this isn’t a comprehensive list of all the questions you have, but we’ll do our best to answer a number of them here, and as briefly as possible. These and other questions and answers are also available on the Frequently Asked Questions page of the Safe Return site. Please keep asking questions by emailing 


1.    Will the COVID-19 dashboard be updated to reflect how many students are in isolation/ quarantine?  
Yes. We have data about the number of students currently in quarantine or isolation, and we hope to incorporate this information into the dashboard soon. Whenever more data is publicly introduced, there is the possibility of confusion, so we are working hard to ensure that we can include this information in a way that is transparent and clearly understood. Stay tuned.

2.    Will the dashboard include people who have been hospitalized? 
We are not aware of any Calvin students who have been hospitalized as a result of COVID-19 this fall semester. For this, we are grateful! If this number is or remains quite small, then it is unlikely this information will appear on the dashboard as reporting this information may compromise our ability to maintain confidentiality.


3.    Is there a way to get test results back faster?  
While we continue to receive test results back, on average, within 48 hours from our partners at Helix Diagnostics and Spectrum Health, we are eager to increase our capacity for even more rapid turnaround of results. Our Health Services team plans to receive two types of rapid analyzers for limited on-campus diagnostic testing. These units and the necessary supplies have been backordered due to national demand, but we are eager to receive them when available. 

4.    What’s the best way to contain the spread of COVID-19? 
The best ways continue to be wearing masks, observing social distancing, and washing our hands.  But screening tests and quicker turnaround getting test results are also very important. If students are symptomatic or are considered close contacts, we quickly isolate or quarantine. We do this so that we can quickly contain any potential spread. When test results come back, if the result is positive, then we have limited the amount of additional people who will need to go into quarantine simply by limiting contact early on. We’ve seen this approach prove effective thus far in helping us contain and avoid mass outbreaks. This approach will continue to help us, but it requires our community to provide good information by faithfully filling out the #CampusClear App daily.

5.    Will Calvin be doing random testing? 
Yes. We are working on ongoing surveillance testing plans, and we will hope to have some clearer plans in the coming weeks. Athletes are already being randomly tested weekly, due to the nature of their activity and potential travel, and we’re now figuring out who else it makes sense to screen in an ongoing way. The prevalence of asymptomatic carriers is quite low, so our best bet is still symptomology—and that’s why filling out #CampusClear is so important in keeping our community safe. If we know who has symptoms, we can make decisions that best help to keep the community safe.

6.    Has Calvin considered Wastewater testing? 
Calvin doesn’t see this as a solution that would help us detect new cases. Because students who have already had the virus can still test positive weeks and months later, the presence of viral markings in wastewater does not necessarily mean there is a new or active case. Additionally, Calvin’s sewage system is organized in such a way that makes it hard to isolate wastewater from specific buildings, making tracing in this way very difficult.

7.    Should a student report if they got tested for COVID-19 outside of Calvin? 
Yes. We are asking students to do this, especially because our ability to do contact-tracing (which includes supporting close contacts) depends on our knowledge of positive cases. By handling contact-tracing ourselves, we are able to follow up, track, and provide the resources students need. When a student realizes all the support that they get from Calvin, they will see the benefit of sharing this information with the university. Note: students are highly encouraged to get tested through Calvin’s Health Services, since the results are typically received much faster and there’s no out-of-pocket cost to the student.

8.    What’s the plan if the residence hall being used for isolation/quarantine fills up? 
Fortunately, we weren’t maximizing our COVID-19 related housing capacity in RVD even when we had our peak number of cases in mid-September. But, if we needed to use other spaces for quarantine or isolation, we do have a number of empty suites in other residence halls that are open and could be used if needed. We also have the ability to house students at Prince Conference Center on campus should the need arise.  Similarly, we have the ability to partner with local hotels for additional housing. 

Complying with protocols

9.       What is Calvin doing to reward students for daily completion of the #CampusClear   

Your student senators have teamed up with the university and the alumni association to provide weekly incentives and drawings for cool prizes for simply completing the #CampusClear App. The incentives begin next week. Look for more information from Student Senate on Instagram (@Calvinsenate) and in their bi-weekly Chimes and Student-News updates. 

10.   How do I address non-compliance among my peers? 

We’ve found that the best way to address non-compliance is to say something in the moment, when you notice it.  We encourage you to address your peers in a way that is non-judgmental, but rather serves as a friendly reminder. If you are in a situation where there are people in authority who can help address the concern, let someone know. If you are in a classroom, talk to your professor; if in a residence hall, notify your RA or Area Coordinator/Graduate Assistant; if on-campus, notify someone nearby or call Campus Safety. We are in this together, so please do your best to encourage safe behavior.

11.   Have students been punished for breaking COVID-19 protocols 
Yes, students have been held accountable when their behaviors do not align with safety protocols. We have responded to a number of reports of non-compliance, and we’re focused on reminding students that their actions impact the people around them as well as the broader Calvin community. For the most part, we’re impressed with the level of care and responsibility that students are demonstrating.  When students fail to comply, disciplinary sanctions are assigned, and these sanctions become increasingly more severe with repeated offenses.  While we don’t enjoy the burden of enforcing policy day in and day out, we also recognize that compliance with health and safety protocols is the best way to ensure that we are able to continue in-person classes.  

12.   Are gaiters as effective as cloth face coverings? 
Our Environmental Health and Safety team has spent a fair amount of time researching this question.  What we’ve learned is that the effectiveness of a face covering is not determined so much by the 
type of face covering as it is by the composition and fit. Please evaluate your face covering to make sure it is two-ply and meets the CDC standards. All students should have received an effective face mask from Calvin University when they returned to campus this fall. Those who have not yet picked up their mask are invited to visit the Student Life Office to do so.  


13.   Are there indoor spaces for commuter students to eat on campus? 
Yes. Calvin has identified four areas that would be well-positioned locations for commuter students to eat.  In consultation with the Kent County Health Department, we hope to confirm a plan to open these eating areas in the next couple of weeks.  Once permitted to open, these indoor eating spaces will be available during set times, and staff will be wiping down tables regularly. Stay tuned for more information. 

14.   Can I eat or drink during class? 

Consumption of food is not permitted during class. In addition, you may not remove your mask to eat or drink while in a classroom. If you need to drink water during class, we encourage you to use a water bottle that has a straw attached to it, so you can slip the straw under your mask to drink.  

15.   Why are there so few trash and recycling bins on campus? 
Because food waste has direct contact with individuals, it is considered a COVID-19 exposure risk.  In addition, we have found that smaller trash receptacles around campus can only hold about 12 food waste containers at a time. For these reasons, Calvin has chosen to remove many of the smaller trash receptacles in common spaces on campus. The dumpsters on campus are much larger and do not require staff to physically touch the trash. We have appreciated that most students and staff/faculty are willing to walk a few extra steps to a dumpster in order to assist in keeping our facilities staff members safe. Calvin remains committed to sustainability, and we are eager to reinstitute our recycling program just as soon as it is safe to do so. 


16.   What can I do to support my mental health during this time? 
It takes some extra effort to care well for ourselves during a pandemic. Take steps each day to connect with others, to move your body, and to do things that you enjoy. Spend time in nature (whether you are able to be outside or simply watch a tree outside your window), and nurture your spiritual life so that you feel connected to something bigger than yourself. Keep a routine, and work consistently toward your goals. And as always, check out the variety of mental health resources available through the Center for Counseling and Wellness, including the new Calvin Unmasked 
peer support app. See a Q&A with Dr. Irene Kraegel, director of Calvin’s Center for Counseling and Wellness, on how to cultivate your mental wellness.  

17.   When will open house hours resume? 
Residence Life has put together a phased plan that outlines how we intend to open up additional opportunities in the coming weeks for students to safely connect with peers in residential spaces. Beginning on Friday, September 25, Calvin is allowing four people from the same residence hall floor to gather together in a room so long as they wear masks, maintain social distancing, avoid consuming food or drink, and keep the room window and door open for ventilation.

We are grateful for the ways each of you are showing your care for one another during this challenging time. Wearing a mask, remaining six feet apart, using the #CampusClear App daily, and refraining from gathering in large groups on and off-campus are simple acts of love for your neighbor. Let’s keep at this important work. 
We are in this together!

The COVID-Response Team 
   Kristen Alford 
   Jennifer Ambrose  
   Laura Champion  
   Todd Dornbos  
   Jim English  
   Todd Hubers (co-chair)  
   Matt Kucinski  
   Brian Paige  
   Sarah Visser (co-chair)  
   John Witte