Waynesburg University remains open as administrators monitor the campus community and continue to stress the “Keep Waynesburg Well” plan. On Tuesday, Oct. 6, Waynesburg University President Douglas Lee provided students and staff with an update on COVID-19 cases on campus. Lee praised students and staff for their commitment to following guidelines set to prevent the spread of COVID-19; However, there have been eight confirmed cases on campus at the time the president’s letter was sent.
“These cases appear to have arisen among connected groups of students,” Lee wrote in the letter. “Following our health and safety protocols, we have performed contact tracing, notified those students that may have been exposed and have required those in close contact to quarantine in accordance with the University’s plan.”
Lee also stressed the importance of continuing to follow the “Keep Waynesburg Well” plan and the university’s commitment to keeping the Waynesburg community informed.
Jim Tanda, instructor of criminal justice and director of security operations and emergency management, spoke to the actions of students so far on behalf of the administration.
“The students’ overall acceptance of their role in keeping Waynesburg safe has been very good as they’ve clearly acknowledged that we’re all in this together,” Tanda said.
Tanda said the “Keep Waynesburg Well” plan follows the best practice guidelines and mandates of both the Center for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health. As a part of this plan, contact tracing has been implemented to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“The trace investigator, who works in coordination with COVID safety officers, determines who may have come in ‘close contact’ with the infected person,” Tanda said. “[They] subsequently collect information through interviews and other evidence to determine the identity and number of those persons possibly exposed, as well as any affected space or buildings that would require additional disinfectant cleaning.”
This process allows the university to quickly identify those who have potentially been exposed to the virus and make arrangements for the students to be tested and begin taking classes remotely, Tanda said.
Even with a negative test, students and staff are required to quarantine for 14 days, as symptoms may begin to show 2-14 days after their exposure.
“Students and employees affected during the trace investigation are notified, interviewed and documented,” Tanda said. “They provide valuable information to the process in order to best assess who may have been exposed.”
Tanda said the university has done well, with 0.0082% of the campus community testing positive for the virus, compared to Pennsylvania’s positive rate of over 1.3%.
While the university continues to monitor the situation, Tanda said many factors would contribute to a move to remote instruction, first and foremost the safety of students and staff.
“The specific moment of any projected transition to remote learning would also include a full consideration of any impact on the community at large,” Tanda said. “As well as the students’ academic continuity and success.”
Even though COVID-19 cases have remained low, some students have still had to quarantine this semester. When asked about the quarantine process, nurse director of student health services Jennifer Dean said last month, it depends on the situation.
“Each student is handled on a case by case basis in accordance with the most up to date Center for Disease Control guidelines,” Dean said. “We have the capability to perform on-campus COVID-19 testing for those who need it. The Pathways Center will assist with accommodations for students who are not able to attend in-person classes.”
Courtney Balban, disability services coordinator and academic support specialist, explained the process in which the Pathway Center operates with an on-campus COVID-19 case.
“Health Services notifies me in the Pathways Center and I send official notification to the student’s instructors that the student is quarantined. During that time, the student should receive their coursework via distance learning on a temporary basis until they are cleared to return,” Balban said. “I also send notifications to the students once I have communicated with their instructors and emphasize that the student needs to contact their instructors A.S.A.P. in order to determine a temporary distance learning plan. Once the student has been cleared to return to class by health services, I notify instructors of the change, indicating that in-person instruction can resume.”
Nicholas Haushalter, an on-campus student, expressed last month how “hectic” the process was at first.
“I received many calls and texts from one of the school nurses, director of housing Matt Pioch, public safety and other administrators about how we were to move in,” Haushalter said. “My roommate and I were given 20 minutes to pack our things, which was rough because if I tested positive we would have been there for two weeks.”
Haushalter and his roommate kept in contact with the school nurse to keep updated on when they could leave.
“We were only in the house for four days,” Haushalter said. “Once I was notified of the results I texted the nurse, who gave us permission to leave as soon as we were ready. Her and a few other representatives of the school were messaging me several times a day for updates, hoping that I was cleared.”
However, classes seemed to be harder than usual for Haushalter’s roommate, Nathan Grella, during this quarantine period.
“It was not very easy to attend class,” Grella said. “Most work was done after I quarantined, but some work I could contact friends to see what needed to be done.”
Unlike Grella, Haushalter said he had an easier time keeping up to date with his class work.
“My professors mostly just had me keep up with the textbook, do various forms of makeup work and listen to prerecorded lectures,” Haushalter said. “Each of them were very accommodating and pleasant. The most difficult thing was dealing with the extremely spotty internet there, which made me thankful I only had one live virtual class.”
When it came to keeping in contact with friends, the only way to really do so was through social media. Grella said he even had a movie night with one of his friends.
“I talked with my friends mostly through snapchat,” Grella said. “I did watch Netflix with my friend one night through the Netflix party feature which I really enjoyed.”
Haushalter took a similar route when communicating with his friends; however, he felt removed from society.
“There was a lot of texting going on, and I was also able to see some of my friends during our virtual bible study,” Haushalter said. “But it was surprising how isolated I felt even after just a couple of days. Having such limited real human interaction wears on you quickly.”