Date: March 16, 2021

Dear students, faculty and staff,

We are holding steady with our isolation and quarantine numbers, staying at levels that are among some of the lowest of the 2020-21 school year.

This is good news, and we commend all those who are working so hard to slow the spread of COVID-19 on campus in our communal efforts to keep each other safe. Keep it up! What you are doing is making a difference.  This includes the hundreds of students coming out for our random surveillance screening each week. Thank you!!

Indeed, just four weeks ago we had 308 students in isolation or quarantine. We now have just 18 students in isolation or quarantine (as of Tuesday, March 16). 

As we continue our Lenten journey, we have some additional details about how our campus will celebrate Holy Week together in a few weeks. More on that and other important items are in the sections below.

NEW THIS WEEK

  • Holy Week on Campus
  • Dining Hall Updates
  • Vaccination Information
  • No News on Variants on Campus

Holy Week on Campus

Since we have class this year on Good Friday (April 2), we will have a Tenebrae worship service at 4 p.m. in the CFAC auditorium. For those unfamiliar with this Holy Week tradition, "Tenebrae" is the Latin word meaning darkness. In many Protestant traditions, the Tenebrae service is held on Good Friday and is characterized by gradual extinguishing of candles. This is always a powerful service, and Calvin’s 2021 Tenebrae service will include both Capella and Women’s Chorale. We are planning to have people in the auditorium for worship and will communicate more details on what this will look like in a future CRT communication.

We also are planning a short Easter Service at the Seminary Pond at 10 a.m. on Easter Sunday (April 4), which will be led by our Worship Apprentices. This will be a service filled with joy, celebration, and renewal, and we are eager to join together as a Calvin community on this Resurrection Sunday. After the service, we will (safely) gather outdoors for a time of coffee, tea, cocoa, and cookies.

In addition to these special events, daily chapel during Holy Week (Monday-Thursday) will feature four sermons meditating on Christ’s suffering, crucifixion, and death. The preachers will be Rev. Laura de Jong (2nd CRC, Grand Haven), Dr. Michelle Loyd-Paige (Executive Associate to the President for Diversity and Inclusion), Rev. Reggie Smith (Director for Diversity, CRCNA), and Rev. Scott Hoezee (Director of the Center for Excellence in Preaching, Calvin Seminary). Each day, 50 people will be invited to participate in-person in the chapel. These chapel services will also be livestreamed.

We continue to share the advice of local health authorities who point out that the asymptomatic nature of illness spread among the traditionally aged college student population could unknowingly contribute to community spread. We encourage you to consider worshiping on campus this Easter as a means to decrease the likelihood of any accidental or unknowing transmission into a local church, especially since older members of local faith communities who have not worshiped in person for many months may choose to attend on Easter morning.

Dining Hall Updates

This week, we are excited to re-launch Calvin’s Green-to-Go Program for students, faculty and staff, a new initiative that will significantly reduce the use of disposables on campus. On-campus students will be given a reusable container to use when dining in or taking to-go meals from the dining hall. Students will return their containers to collection points in the dining halls after dining in or when they next return to the dining hall. Upon returning their container, they will be given a token, which can be exchanged for a new, clean Green-to-Go container. These containers are made from 100% BPA-free polypropylene and are both dishwasher and microwave safe. All students with a meal plan will start with a container. Students without a meal plan, and faculty and staff, may purchase a container for $8 in the Commons Dining Services offices.

In addition, last week Dining Services received updated guidance from the Kent County Health Department that allows for the return of self-service beverages. The service team is still working on some of the logistics, but the hope is to have this running by the end of this week.

Our contact tracing team continues to believe that the surge we saw at the start of the spring semester was largely driven by students eating together. In addition, during the early weeks of the semester, we also had many Creative Dining Services staff and student employees who were either in isolation or quarantine, which made staffing the dining halls a particular challenge. We continue to monitor on-campus dining, and because of the dining-related issues early in the semester, we encourage anyone eating on campus to do so safely and to respect the guidelines that have been put into place in both the dining halls and Johnny's.

Vaccination Updates

We have seen amazing progress for the state of Michigan in recent weeks on the vaccine front, including these updates in the last two weeks: 

  • March 22 - anyone over 50 will be eligible for the vaccine
  • March 22 - people age 16 to 49 with certain medical conditions or disabilities will be eligible
  • April 5 - all residents age 16 and up will become eligible

These categories of eligibility obviously have a significant impact on the Calvin community, and we encourage students, faculty, and staff to register for the vaccine and to receive it as soon as you are able.

The Vaccinate West Michigan website has an FAQ that goes into great depth on all three vaccines currently available in Michigan. They also have a registration page that includes information and links to all the places one can register for a vaccination.

No News on Variants on Campus

Last month, we sent samples from positive test results to a state lab that does sequencing to test for coronavirus variants. We have not heard back from the lab, but our understanding at this time is that the lab will only circle back to those who provided samples if a variant is present in the samples. From what we understand, if those who provided samples don't hear back, then they can assume that the variant was not present in the samples they provided. However, that does not mean that we did not have any variants present on our campus when we had our surge at the beginning of the semester. It just means that the variant was likely not present in any of the small number of samples we sent. We will, of course, alert the campus if we ever receive concrete evidence of the variant, but in the meantime, as a COVID Response Team, we urge the campus to continue to practice all the important measures that mitigate against the spread of coronavirus and any of its variants.

Asymptomatic Testing at Calvin

Our weekly random surveillance screening clinic is for students who do not have symptoms and is going very well. Students with symptoms—no matter how mild—should report their symptoms through #CampusClear and the Health Services patient portal. Same-day testing appointments are available Monday-Friday for sick students as indicated by CDC guidelines.

One of the reasons for the recent decline in the number of students in quarantine is that students are doing a much better job reporting symptoms as soon as they occur. In addition, just as was the case last semester, we are finding that asymptomatic surveillance screenings help us identify people who have COVID-19 but did not know they were contagious because they were not experiencing symptoms. Asymptomatic screening can be a valuable tool in our communal effort to slow the spread of illness and maintain our ability to do in-person living and learning together.

As a reminder, employees who would like to opt in to the random, weekly screenings should email covidsurveilancetesting@calvin.edu to receive information on the testing process and be added to the list. For any questions about employee diagnostic testing, please contact Sam Brouwer in Human Resources at sjb62@calvin.edu

Travel Reminder

The Center for Student Success is seeing an increase in requests for short-term remote learning, particularly related to travel. The Student Success team is not approving or supporting student requests for temporary remote learning other than accommodations for quarantine or isolation. In addition, they are not encouraging any travel this month or next. Such travel would be potentially detrimental to our work and life together and would defeat the COVID-related purpose of removing a traditional spring break and ending the semester a week early. We ask students to not leave campus for any spring-break type travel, and we do not expect professors to accommodate such travel. COVID outbreaks on other campuses are real; help us stay the course we’re on at Calvin!

Stay healthy, stay safe and stay #CalvinStrong.

LINKS WE LIKE

The COVID-Response Team

Kristen Alford

Jennifer Ambrose

Laura Champion
Phil de Haan

Todd Dornbos

Jim English

Todd Hubers (co-chair)

Brian Paige

Jane Prins

Sarah Visser (co-chair)

John Witte

Cindy Wolffis