Date: February 16, 2021

Dear students, faculty, and staff, 

We are at the halfway point of our two-week enhanced physical distancing pause, our response to both a rapid increase in our isolation and quarantine numbers and our COVID-19 positivity rates.

When we communicated with the entire campus on Monday, February 8, we noted that we would continue to reassess the situation during this two-week period to determine what the best next steps might be on Tuesday, February 23.

Last night's report from our on campus public health experts showed that we have 114 students in isolation and 206 students in quarantine. These numbers and trends continue to be troubling, and the tremendous burden they put on our frontlines workers is not sustainable. Yet, while the numbers today are not headed in the right direction, we are hopeful that we will see some downward trends later this week as it often takes 10 days or more for the impact of things like our current enhanced physical distancing measures to be reflected in the numbers.

We urge everyone – students, staff, and faculty alike – to stay the course when it comes to the latest advice as part of our enhanced physical distancing. Indeed, when it comes to COVID-19, what we do today makes a big difference in terms of what life can look like on the Calvin campus in 10-14 days. Things like daily symptom-monitoring, mask wearing, physical distancing, and avoidance of social gatherings can help bring the numbers down.  So, please, do not lose heart. Each of us can play a part in reversing the current trend.

We anticipate that we will send another campus-wide communication either this week Friday (Feb. 19) or next Monday (Feb. 22), updating students, faculty and staff on our numbers and next steps in our collective COVID response. In the meantime, see below for a few items of interest as we continue to work together to slow the spread.

NEW THIS WEEK

  • Expansion of Asymptomatic Testing at Calvin
  • Opportunities for Recreation
  • Creatively Building Community
  • Looking for COVID-19 Variants

Expansion of Asymptomatic Testing at Calvin

Colleges and universities are being encouraged to increase their testing, and we plan to do so at Calvin, including more testing of asymptomatic students. We began a weekly testing program last fall and will expand the program this spring semester, likely in the next few weeks. Our asymptomatic surveillance testing last semester helped us identify people who had COVID-19 but did not know they were contagious. This approach will continue to be an important tool as we all work together to slow the spread of illness and maintain our ability to do in-person living and learning together.

As we expand asymptomatic surveillance testing this spring, we are pleased to announce that results will be available in just 15 minutes, and that students will not have to wait around at the Track & Tennis Center for results. Instead, students will download a free app, called NAVICA, that accompanies this rapid antigen testing program, and when tested, results will be delivered to them directly through the app.

We would encourage students to download the free NAVICA app for either iPhone or AndroidTODAY to set up your account. Please note, the NAVICA app will only be utilized for communicating test results; it does not replace our daily symptom-monitoring app (#CampusClear). 

Each week asymptomatic students will be randomly selected for testing. This testing will be by appointment only; no walk-ins. Students will need to pay attention to their emails to learn if they’ve been selected, and they’ll need to follow instructions to schedule their appointment for testing within the next 24 hours after having been selected. Additional details on the rollout of the spring surveillance testing program will be sent in the coming days.

We continue to ask symptomatic students to report their symptoms through #CampusClearand the Health Services patient portal.  Same day testing appointments are available Monday-Friday for sick students as indicated by CDC guidelines.

Opportunities for Recreation

We know that the current two-week period of enhanced physical distancing brings with it significant mental and emotional anxiety, and we are continually balancing a number of important (and sometimes competing) values as we make decisions around the virus. Our current measures in the residence halls, dining halls, and other locations are intended to directly address some places where we saw virus spread happening and where we thought we could make an impact to help slow the spread. We have also looked at other places on campus that were closed immediately following the announcement of the pause, and we have now made some small adjustments, under strict participation guidelines, that we think will provide some relief for our students, faculty, and staff. Here is a summary (or check out https://calvin.edu/directory/places/spoelhof-fieldhouse-complex for additional details):

Venema Aquatic Center

  • Open Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 6:30-8 a.m. and 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • Open Tuesday, Thursday from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.
  • Open Saturday from 1-4 p.m.

Morren Fitness Center

  • Open Monday through Friday from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. We will be monitoring two major points in the Center: first, 12 feet of social distancing (yes, 12 feet!) and second, proper wearing of masks. Patrons will be given two warnings and will then lose their access for two weeks.

Hoogenboom Center Recreation Activities

  • The university will have open pickleball and badminton in the Hoogenboom Center from 4-8 pm Monday-Friday and on Saturdays from 10-6 pm. Single play only; no doubles.

Creatively Building Community

Residence life staff have been getting creative as they work to maintain a sense of community during the pandemic. “We were intended for community, for proximal relationship,” said Hennie Schoon, area coordinator for three residence halls at Calvin, who teamed up with a trio of graduate assistants, resident assistants, Barnabas leaders, and residence hall social planning teams to come up with and implement a plan to keep community thriving during the two weeks of enhanced physical distancing. Read more on the News & Stories website.

Looking for B.1.1.7 and Other Variants 

We have received questions about whether or not the B.1.1.7. variant may be present at Calvin.  Yesterday, we sent samples to a state lab to have them sequenced to see if any of the variants are present on Calvin’s campus.  We are acting under the assumption that they likely are, and our two-week period of enhanced physical distancing was driven in part by that assumption. What we are encouraged by is that the public health policy approach and guidelines remain the same for college campuses, even those that have the variants: requiring that people wear masks on campus, enforcing social distancing, limiting gatherings, and testing to find positive cases and then quarantining them and their close contacts. In other words, our best practices for preventing and containing the spread of virus will continue.

LINKS WE LIKE

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