Date: October 23, 2020

Subject: Safe Return Update

Dear students,

A WOOD-TV story this week noted Spectrum Health is caring for more COVID-19 patients than at any other time during the pandemic and included a somber comment from Brian 
Hartl, supervising epidemiologist at the Kent County Health Department who said: "There are people who are dying from COVID-19 who shouldn’t be dying. It’s not just the older populations who are becoming ill and dying from it." 

We work closely with the Kent County Health Department, and Hartl’s message is one we take seriously. As the COVID-19 situation changes, we urge you to read this week's email with a renewed commitment to your health and protecting the health of those around you. 

HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS & OTHER TRAVEL TIPS 

We are seeing increases in the number of students who have been named official close contacts of positive cases, and roughly one-third of the exposure has happened in the external community. 

Students and employees have inquired about how they should approach visiting family and friends off campus on the weekends and many employees also have people they visit on weekends and other times. As rates of COVID continue to increase, and as the weather becomes colder and people are inside more, it is critical that we consider how we can keep each other safe on campus and off. 

Our goal as a campus is to stay together until Thanksgiving (only 4 ½ weeks from now!). To reach this goal, we all need to stay vigilant, and safe travel is a critical component to our success. So, here are a few simple reminders and a link for those who would like to dig deeper: 

  • Please do your best to maintain a small group of close social contacts, and, as much as possible, avoid visiting others on the weekends. 
  • Avoid long or overnight gatherings. The risk of contracting COVID-19 increases when people spend 15 minutes or more in close proximity, particularly in indoor spaces. Since symptoms can sometimes take a few days to appear, we urge you to maintain proper distancing and wear masks whenever you are interacting with people outside your household. This will decrease the likelihood of you becoming ill or being placed into 14-day quarantine if a member of your social circle becomes ill. 
  • If you are indoors with people, meet for shorter periods of time in well-ventilated rooms, and consider wearing masks indoors with family. 
  • Avoid traveling with others in the same vehicle; if it can’t be avoided, please wear masks, open windows, and make sure your heating or cooling is set to bring in outside air (don't use the cabin air recirculation button!). 
  • For students on or off campus, if your family and friends from outside of Calvin come to see you, gather outdoors and maintain physical distance. 

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has issued guidance on how to travel and gather safely during the holidays.  Additionally, there are valuable online tips from the CDC on COVID and travel.  

MASK UP CALVIN 

Colder weather means we will be spending more time indoors than we did even a week or two ago. Masks are a must. And more than that, wearing your mask properly is critical.  

You may have seen people who wear a mask over their mouth but below their nose. This is not an effective means of preventing the spread of COVID-19. One doctor compared it to holding the seat belt in your hand but not clicking it. And the Chief of the infectious diseases division at the University of Nebraska Medical Center noted that the nose is one of the prime entry points for the novel coronavirus. For the sake of everyone, please wear your mask properly. Ensure that your mask fits well and covers both your nose and mouth. 

And don't forget your mask etiquette when you are off campus. Just this week, the CDC issued new guidance on the use of face masks for public transit, urging everyone to wear facial coverings throughout the entire travel journey. 

The bottom line is that masks work, and they are one of the most effective tools we currently have to prevent the spread of COVID-19. So, as has been the case all semester, mask up. Protect yourself and those around you.  

WISE CHURCH ATTENDANCE 

In recent weeks, more churches in our area have begun to open for in-person worship. As a campus and as God's people, we believe corporate worship is an important part of practicing our faith. But we need to be smart about in-person gatherings of all types, especially now as Kent County case counts are rising, and we are in the midst of a critical time in the fight against COVID-19. 

We continue to recommend virtual worship, due to the increased spread of COVID-19 in our community. For those who decide to worship in person, our advice is to attend a church that requires masks for all worshipers, practices physical distancing in the sanctuary, avoids gathering socially after worship, and has a plan for movement, including one-way flow in and out with designated doorways. 

Remember that young adults can be asymptomatic spreaders of the virus, so wearing a mask in all public places, including church, is one way in which we protect our neighbors’ health and love our neighbors well. 

WHAT'S NEW ON THE DASHBOARD 

Our COVID dashboard is updated both daily and weekly. The dashboard now provides four broad pieces of information: 

  1. Current number of active cases (updated daily) 
  1. Current number of students in quarantine (updated daily)  
  1. Cumulative positive cases and total recovered (updated daily) 
  1. Testing data (updated weekly) 

Testing data is a new addition to the dashboard and is updated every Tuesday (righthand column). It includes the total number of screening and diagnostic tests that have been administered to students and provides positivity rates. As you reference the dashboard, please keep in mind that the testing section of the dashboard will get updated weekly, so the numbers may lag the cumulative case totals on the left side of the dashboard, since these figures are updated daily.  

LOOKING AHEAD 

We are starting to receive questions about the return to campus for both Interim and spring semester. In the coming weeks, we hope to finalize many of those plans.   

Based on the current and predicted future levels of COVID-19 infections in our local area and the likelihood that a vaccine will not be available before spring, we anticipate that Interim and spring semester instruction will look very similar to this fall. This will include the use of masks, physical distancing, larger classroom spaces, and the need to accommodate some remote learners. Students who have questions about taking interim and spring courses online for compelling health or family reasons should contact Thea Brophy in the Center for Student Success

Students who were remote during the fall semester should have received a survey request about their interim and spring plans. There are some sections of courses that we will offer online, and remote students are encouraged to take the online sections of courses when they are available and make sense for a student’s program. 

We do intend to administer screening tests to all students returning for in-person instruction for Interim and/or spring semester. 

LINKS WE RECOMMEND 

Calvin’s COVID Response Team continues to benefit from strong partnerships with the Kent County Health Department and state of Michigan, and we often learn of local and national initiatives which the Calvin community may find interesting. Feel free to explore the links below to learn more about some on-going developments and innovations related to COVID-19.  

  • The My COVID Risk app comes from Brown University and was created by physicians to give you the information you need to know your own COVID-19 risk.  
  • The COVID-19 Event Risk Assessment Planning Tool is a U.S. map that shows the risk level of attending an event, given the event size and location. 

Stay safe, Calvin. 

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