COVID-19 update on campus

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Nothing says welcome back to campus more than an updated COVID-19 health and safety plan. Waynesburg University students returned to campus mid-January for the spring 2021 semester to find some new campus guidelines issued by Waynesburg’s Keep Waynesburg Well Team. 

These guidelines included new testing policies, which will continue to be updated throughout the semester. 

The testing policies included requiring students to provide verification of a negative COVID-19 test before coming back to campus, and also set in place new travel guidelines.

“The University’s new testing policy is commensurate with new guidance issued by the CDC and the Pennsylvania Department of Health as well as consistent with peer institutions,” Ashley Wise, director of University Relations, and Stacey Brodak, vice president for Institutional Advancement and University Relations, said in a joint prepared statement. “This change also reflects an assessment of data collected from the fall semester and a need to address the increased number of COVID-19 positive cases nationally, regionally and locally.”

According to Waynesburg University’s website, the travel guidelines encourage students, who are leaving campus for 24 hours or more, to:

  1. Inform Student Services prior to leaving campus;
  2. Be cautious and wear a mask, sanitize, maintain a safe social distance and monitor symptoms;
  3. And secure proof of a negative COVID-19 test 4-5 days after return to campus.

Students will not be penalized for not complying with the travel guidelines; however, students are strongly encouraged to follow them to prevent future spread of infection on campus.

In their statement, Wise and Brodak said the university’s contact tracing from the fall 2020 semester revealed that “the vast majority of confirmed cases on campus originated by close contact with infected individuals off campus.”

For the fall 2020 semester, from Aug. 9 to Dec. 5, Waynesburg University reported 63 confirmed COVID-19 cases, most of which originated from students traveling off-campus. 

These travel guidelines will act as an effort to reduce these infections caused by off-campus travel. 

Another addition to Waynesburg University’s health and safety plan was the expansion of the Student Health Services staff. This semester, Waynesburg University hired two new Student Health Services nurses: Rebecca Hillegas and Samantha Steinmiller.

“We are constantly assessing and adjusting, and based on our experience in the fall 2020 semester, we increased staffing in Student Health Services to help ensure student safety. We are continuing to assess the needs in that space,” Wise and Brodak said in their statement.

In addition to the newly added staff, Assistant Professor of Nursing Sherry Parsons is now leading Student Health Services as Director of Student Health Services. Parsons played a pivotal role in implementing the testing strategy at the beginning of the semester and continues to assist with testing throughout the semester. 

As of Feb. 12, Waynesburg University has reported a total of 18 confirmed cases since the start of student move-ins on Jan. 11. 

So far, Wise and Brodak said students are making an effort to comply with these guidelines, but they hope the rationale behind the restrictions will make students understand the importance of complying to the health and safety plan. 

“We know that people may be getting weary, as we are nearly a year into this pandemic. However, it’s important that we all continue to be diligent, as each one of us has a role in keeping our campus and surrounding community safe and healthy,” Wise and Brodak said in their statement. “This continued cooperation is a critical component of remaining on campus for in-person classes through the spring 2021 term.”