COVID-19 lessons from fall 2020

As we prepare for the spring semester and a return to campus, on behalf of the COVID-19 Steering Committee, we want to share the lessons we learned from the fall leading to enhancements to the Protect The Dam plan for spring semester.

Lessons Learned from the Fall

Thanks to all of the efforts of students, faculty and staff Bluffton’s Protect The Dam Plan worked.

Daily Self Health Checks were critical for disease management; allowing medical staff to address issues early on in the cycle. This also provided for opportunities for students to get timely response from professional medical staff when they had symptoms, providing piece of mind for students and families.

Mask Wearing and social distancing worked. Preliminary studies in Ohio have shown no evidence of virus spread in classroom settings when masks were worn and social distancing followed.  

Limited time of shared meal spaces, limited access to buffet lines and the option for grab-and-go-meals in The Commons contained the virus spread.

NCAA testing protocols for athletes worked and reduced the spread of the virus within teams and prevented spread into the general campus population.

Virus Spread occurred in shared living spaces and in instances where masks were not worn and social distancing was not followed.

The first two-thirds of the semester had less virus spread as more students were staying on campus overnights and on weekends. When students stayed on campus and limited their exposure to large gatherings, the campus community was healthier.

The last third of the semester saw the most increase in virus spread for the semester. All cases were contact traced back to students who attended off-campus parties around the Halloween time. When students left campus for overnight and weekend events, they unknowingly brought the virus back with them.

Social Circle Size is critical. Students are encouraged to keep their social circle bubble small, and maintain the same group of people throughout the semester. When social circles include exposure to large gatherings, limited social distancing, no mask wearing and sharing of meals, food and utensils, students were exposed to the virus and brought it back to campus. Guests, including families and overnight visitors, will not be allowed on campus for the spring semester.

Virus spread also happened when sick students did not follow quarantine or isolation best practices.

Contact tracing is more effective when it was processed by campus staff. Mid-way through the semester, this change was made when it became clear that the Allen County Health Department was unable to keep up with the demands of managing contact tracing across the county.

Since the fall, new CDC and State of Ohio guidelines are now in place:

Contact tracing: Per Governor DeWine, contact tracing is no longer needed in classroom spaces where face masks and social distancing is maintained. Contact tracing should be used for athletic teams, social settings and residential living where masks and social distancing are not maintained.

As students are identified by contact tracing, those who may have had an exposure due to no mask wearing, no social distancing or residential living will be sent to quarantine on campus for 10 days.

As students test positive for COVID, they will move to isolation for 10 days and can return to residential living after 10 days, once their symptoms subside, and with documentation from their local county health department.

Only students who have been identified through campus contact tracing, a positive test result or a self-reported positive test result will be excused from campus activity and allowed to participate in virtual learning. Students will not be allowed to self-quarantine or self-isolate without going through the campus contact tracing program managed by Amber Smith in the student life office

The COVID steering committee and the student life office will work to stay better connected with student in quarantine and in isolation.