Campus protocols for Fall 2021

Overview for fall 2021

As the Bluffton University campus community looks forward for the start of the 2021-22 academic year and welcoming students back to campus, students and employees are strongly encouraged to obtain a vaccination. Vaccine locations can be found at the Allen County Public Health, or your county’s Public Health Department website. Bluffton University is not mandating vaccines to return to campus, but encourages students to be vaccinated as congregate living is at higher risk for disease spread.

Sophomores, juniors and seniors are required to provide an updated immunization record on my.bluffton.edu so the university can report to the health department what percentage of our students are vaccinated. First-year students already have submitted their immunization record as part of their Day One Ready materials.

Monitor your health

All students and employees should self-monitor their health symptoms. Anyone not feeling well should not attend class or other events. The Student Health Center encourages our students with positive symptoms to contact Bluffton Primary Care if they need a doctor, or to seek testing either at a designated COVID-19 test site or by purchasing home tests (which can be bought at Walmart, CVS or Walgreens etc.).

The Student Health Center will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday thru Friday for consultative visits. After these hours, students who are severely ill should contact a local physician or urgent care.

Students who test positive, either from a home test or at a designated testing site, must notify Phill Talavinia, vice president of student affairs. He is the only person that can and will notify the registrar’s office of the need to leave campus to ensure a remote learning option.

Employees should be in conversation with your supervisor regarding your health status. 

Quick reference

Throughout the pandemic, we have followed the science - particularly guidelines from the Centers for Diseaase Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Allen County Department of Health. Based on those guidelines, we have updated policies for the fall 2021 semester. We will continue to change and update our policies whenever needed to protect our campus community. 

  Fully vaccinated Unvaccinated
COVID-19 Testing Not Required

We will not be conducting random COVID-19 testing on campus at this time. Students who have been vaccinated and have concerns about a breakthrough infection should consult the Student Health Center or their physician, and/or purchase an at-home rapid COVID-19 test. Free tests are often available at the Hancock County Health Department in Findlay, Ohio. You can also pick up a free home COVID-19 test by calling the Allen County Department of Health at 419-228-4457 and they will direct you to a location for pickup.
Testing required for student-athletes 3x/week per NCAA guidelines during your season. 

Non-student athletes or athletes not in season are encouraged to purchase their own at-home rapid COVID-19 test available at most drugstores or go to local urgent care facilities for testing. Free tests may be available (see left column).
Quarantine * After contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19

Not experiencing symptoms: Test 3-5 days after exposure and wear a mask until cleared by a negative test result. Do not have to leave campus.

Experiencing symptoms: Test 3-5 days after exposure and quarantine until cleared by a negative test result. Must leave campus.
Required if in contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19. You must go home and remain in quarantine for 14 days from the time of exposure.
Isolation * Required if you test positive for COVID-19; you must leave campus and can return with an order of your health department. Required if you test positive for COVID-19; you must leave campus and can return with an order from your health department.
Masks Required on campus except outdoors and in your residence hall room  Required on campus except outdoors and in your residence hall room 
Reporting positive test results or if you are required to quarantine by health department Student athletes in season: Report your positive COVID-19 result to bartlettk@bluffton.edu

Non-student athletes/athletes not in season: Required to notify talaviniap@bluffton.edu if you test positive for COVID-19.

Employees: report to your supervisor
Student athletes in season: Report your positive COVID-19 result to bartlettk@bluffton.edu

Non-student athletes/athletes not in season: Required to notify talaviniap@bluffton.edu if you test positive for COVID-19.

Employees: report to your supervisor

* Your length of quarantine and/or isolation will be determined by your health department and based on CDC guidelines.

Masks

Bluffton University will continue to follow local, state and federal guidance, and make adjustments if needed based on virus load and best practices. The Center for Disease Control recommends that those who have not been vaccinated continue to wear masks and social distance.

At the recommendation of the Allen County Department of Health (ACDH), we will join many other universities in instituting a temporary mask requirement for all students, faculty, staff and guests (regardless of vaccination status) in indoor spaces on campus beginning on Friday, Aug. 27. We hope this mask requirement will only last a few weeks, including through move in and as we all get settled into our new routines. This requirement will pertain to indoor public spaces (including classes and indoor athletics events) where people gather, excluding places for eating. We will be in constant communication with the ACDH to determine if the requirement needs to be continued. 

As a Community of Respect, mask wearing for those who wish to wear them will be supported. In large event venues, Bluffton University will provide spaces for social distancing during the event to welcome those who want to attend events in-person but are at high risk and want to limit their exposure to large crowds. 

Isolation and quarantine

During the 2021-22 academic year, Bluffton University will not provide any isolation or quarantine spaces. Students will need to arrange for their own isolation and quarantine space and will be required to leave campus. 

All students should have a personal COVID-19 plan, confirmed with your families, in the event of sickness (where will you go, transportation plans, etc.).

Isolation after a positive test

Students who test positive for the virus will need to isolate at the direction of Allen County Department of Health or other health entity, regardless of vaccination status. You must isolate off-campus regardless of vaccination status.

Upon clearance from isolation from your county health department, a copy of the release documentation must be sent to Phill Talavinia, talavaniap@bluffton.edu, vice president of student affairs, before a student can return to campus.

Quarantine after exposure

Fully vaccinated individuals who are deemed close contacts to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, will need to be tested at day 3-5 after exposure. A copy of the negative test, either an at-home test or one from a testing site, will need to be verified with Phill Talavinia. Students will not need to leave campus during this time, unless specified by healthcare officials. However they will be required to social distance and mask in public indoor spaces until cleared by a negative test.

Unvaccinated individuals who are deemed close contacts to an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, will need to be quarantined per CDC and local health official’s guidelines. During the 2021-22 academic year, Bluffton University will not provide any quarantine spaces. Students will need to arrange for their own space and will be required to leave campus. 

What to do

  • Stay home for 14 days after your last contact with a person who has COVID-19.
  • Watch for fever (100.4◦F), cough, shortness of breath or other symptoms of COVID-19.
  • If possible, stay away from people you live with, especially people who are at higher risk for getting very sick from COVID-19.

I am unvaccinated, am I able to shorten my quarantine with a negative test result?
Your local public health authorities make the final decisions about how long quarantine should last, based on local conditions and needs. Follow the recommendations of your local public health department if you need to quarantine. Options they will consider to shorten your quarantine include: after day 10 without testing and no symptoms or after day 7 after receiving a negative test result (test must occur on day 5 or later).

More from the CDC > 

Student athletes

NCAA COVID-19 vaccination and testing information:
Throughout the 2021-22 academic year, Bluffton University will be following all local, state, CDC and NCAA guidelines in terms of testing for COVID-19. With the relaxation of local and NCAA guidelines and the ever-changing dynamic of the COVID-19 pandemic, these guidelines will continue to change as well. Bluffton University will be following NCAA guideline for testing as released in the latest NCAA Resocialization Document (June 2021).

These guidelines state that it is “not recommend(ed) to repeat surveillance testing for infected individuals within the 90-day window following infection or for fully vaccinated individuals*, either as routine surveillance or after COVID-19 exposure, unless symptoms warrant such an evaluation as determined by a physician.”

*Fully vaccinated is defined as two weeks after your final dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

However, for unvaccinated athletes surveillance tested is recommended and depending on the level of spread in the campus and/or team could be up to three times per week. Unlike previous recommendations, this applies to all unvaccinated athletes and Tier I individuals despite the previous sport level risk. If you have not been fully vaccinated or choose to not to share this information, you will be subject to testing three times a week, per NCAA guidance. Any student athlete who chooses not to become vaccinated will pay for the administrative costs of their individual tests. Costs will be added to each student’s bill.

We realize that vaccination is a choice and at this time will not be requiring it for participation in athletics. These guidelines will require, however, the Sports Medicine Department to have documentation of COVID-19 vaccination for individuals within the athletic department who have been vaccinated. For this documentation a copy of the CDC Card that you received at time of vaccination will be accepted. These can be emailed or mailed with the student athlete’s physical or sent directly to:

Bluffton University
Attn: Kayla Bartlett-Ulrich
1 University Drive
Bluffton, OH 45817-2104

bartlettk@bluffton.edu
Fax: 419-358-3070

It worked before

Bluffton’s #ProtectTheDam plan worked during the 2020-21 academic year and if the pandemic situation worsens, or if campus is on outbreak monitoring from the Allen County Health Department, we will return to that plan (wearing masks, social distancing, use of Campus Shield app, limited capacity at events, campus closed to the public, etc.) until the virus trends return to normal. 

Any questions about fall 2021 campus protocols should go to Karen Bontrager, director of the President’s Office, bontragek@bluffton.edu.

Miscellaneous Details

Student Health Center
The Student Health Center will be open from 10 a.m. – 2p.m. Monday through Friday and will be staffed by RNs from Bluffton’s nursing program. The Center is run by Dr. Sherri Winegardner, DNP, and director of nursing.

Do I need to do the daily health check on the Campus Shield App?
No. If you are not feeling well you are encouraged to submit your symptoms on the app and a nurse from the Student Health Center will follow up with you that same day and provide guidance.

Do I need to show my green badge to get into events?
No, unless campus returns to the #ProtectTheDam plan. 

What if I get sick with COVID-19 or I am exposed while on campus?
If you become sick with COVID-19, or if you are directed to quarantine by the health department, you will need to leave campus. Bluffton University will not provide isolation or quarantine spaces for the 2021-22 academic year. 

Will there be random testing done on campus for students?
Only in the event of an outbreak on campus, or elevated virus levels in the county/region. Students who are not vaccinated may be required to participate in random COVID-19 testing. Per the CDC, students who are vaccinated are not required to participate in testing. Testing protocols for student-athletes are below in the section about athletics.

The Commons and dining services:
The Commons will return to full capacity. Students are encouraged to eat in the Commons. When necessary, reuseable to-go containers will be available for purchase.

Will campus be open to the public for events and use of facilities?
Families, alumni and guests are invited to return to campus for university sponsored events. To accommodate those who want to attend events but would prefer to be socially distanced, in large indoor venues, spaces will be reserved for those who want to remain socially distanced from others. These seats will be available on a first come first serve basis. Tickets may be required for some events as they were prior to COVID-19.

During the next year, as we continue to live and learn through COVID-19, one time facility rentals by the public/non university sponsored groups will be considered based on campus impact and health status of the county and campus. Recurring space rentals by non-university sponsored groups will not be considered at this time. 
Aug. 24, 2021

 

Update

Aug. 12, 2021
In June we followed the standard from the Governor’s office and stopped all mask wearing and social distancing practices and welcomed guests on campus once again. This allowed us to start to feel the “new normal” we all so deeply hoped for, but we also acknowledged we would monitor the COVID-19 developments and continue to follow recommendations from the CDC, the Governor’s office, and our colleagues at the Allen County Department of Health.

Over the last week, the nation realized a surge of the Delta and Lambda variants. Because of this, the CDC has now updated its masking recommendation to all people, including the vaccinated, while gathering indoors in public spaces. 

I am very pleased to share 90% of faculty and staff are currently vaccinated, which is the indication level for herd immunity. We are currently collecting student vaccination information and will provide a vaccination rate update as those results come in.

As we learn more about the virus and its variants, we realize the Delta variant significantly affects younger people, and it can be transmitted by vaccinated people even asymptomatically. 

At the recommendation of the Allen County Department of Health (ACDH), we will join many other universities in instituting a temporary mask requirement for all students, faculty, staff and guests (regardless of vaccination status) in indoor spaces on campus beginning on Friday, Aug. 27. We hope this mask requirement will only last a few weeks, including through move in and as we all get settled into our new routines. This requirement will pertain to indoor public spaces (including classes) where people gather, excluding places for eating. We will be in constant communication with the ACDH to determine if the requirement needs to be continued. 

I know this step may feel discouraging as we had hoped for a completely normal start to fall campus life, but I hope that you will keep a few things in mind:

  • We believe that this requirement will be short term. Our large first-year class means that more students are coming from more communities, and we want to start off the semester as safely as possible;
  • We have a high vaccination rate amongst faculty and staff and hope to have also see a similar rate amongst students. Any faculty, staff or student has access to the free vaccine and getting it may allow us to keep our campus safety restrictions low;
  • We will continue to prioritize safety for our campus community.

Take good care as you prepare to come to campus—we can’t wait to see you!

Blessings,
President Wood

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