A recent surge in COVID-19 cases has placed pressure on the university and has cast doubt over the ability to continue in-person learning for the last week of classes before Thanksgiving break.
In the two weeks after Halloween, the university has seen a dramatic rise in COVID-19 case numbers. As of Nov. 2, there had been total of 187 confirmed cases in the Augustana community. By November 11, that number had increased to 236.
According to an email sent on Tuesday by Dean of Students Mark Blackburn, students who have tested positive, are waiting for test results or have been identified as a “close contact” to a student who has tested positive will not be offered campus quarantine or isolation housing. Instead, they can either travel to their winter break destination early, stay at a local hotel at their own expense or if they are already approved for campus housing during winter break, they can request an exception to be granted for a quarantine space.
“Numbers of COVID-19 cases on and off campus continue to climb and have reached unacceptable levels,” the email states. “Accordingly, we write to inform you of an important short-term adjustment in our quarantine and isolation protocols and stress the critical role that you play in keeping yourself and others healthy and safe during these final days of face-to-face instruction for this fall semester.
As of Wednesday, there were 43 active cases of COVID-19 in the campus community and 164 students in quarantine.
According to a follow-up email from Blackburn, students who are currently quarantining at Augustana facilities can stay for the duration of their isolation period. Students who are sent into quarantine after November 10 will need to make accommodations, because their quarantine time will be pushed past November 20, which marks the end of in-person learning.
Blackburn’s email encourages students to maintain at least a 6-foot distance when interacting with others, wear a mask in all buildings on campus and wash their hands often. These requirements are part of the Code of Student Conduct and students may be sent home for any violations.
“Significant consequences may be issued for violations including, but not limited to, removal from in-person learning for J-Term and Spring Semester,” the email says.