Aug. 28: COVID Testing

We want to provide some additional information about our COVID testing. We let the Mecklenburg County Health Department know that this week we have received five positive test results for which we have since identified a possible connection. That doesn’t mean they are connected, only that it’s plausible. The county officials confirmed this afternoon that the tests fit the definition of a “cluster.”   

The students in this cluster are isolating, and while they are currently asymptomatic, their health is being monitored. Contact tracing has been completed, and students identified as requiring quarantine have been sent there. Fortunately, the number of students requiring quarantine is low, which is a reflection of when our community adheres to our health and safety guidelines. 

The students in the cluster are members of the baseball team, but any transmission among them likely was from social settings. We say this based on the contact tracing and on our experience in athletics. Athletic activities follow protocols set by the NCAA, NATA and American College of Sports Medicine that include 6 to 10 feet of social distancing and cleaning of equipment between iterations. They are supervised and screened by Davidson College athletic trainers and staff. The protocols were successfully followed over the summer with our athletes and the only positive case developed after one student made an authorized trip home to another state. Training also continues outdoors even though the state of North Carolina permits indoor training by the teams. Out of an abundance of caution, however, we have suspended all baseball activities for two weeks. 

Our weekly testing continues to provide invaluable help. It is catching positive tests in asymptomatic students, and reinforcing that our prevention efforts, when practiced, are working. On Thursday, for example, 643 people tested, including a retest of the entire first year class, and there were zero positive tests.

Among the 1,607 students on campus being tested weekly, we have received 14 positive results since August 17th. Of those, 8 are isolating on campus, 5 are doing so at home and one has recovered.

We conducted more than 1,800 pre-arrival tests and received 15 positive results. Of those 11 students are isolating at home and did not travel to campus. The others tested positive because of a previous infection from which they had recovered. You can test positive up to three months afterward.

The positive result cases serve as an important reminder to us to treat every individual on campus, including yourself, as if you are infected with the virus.  Stay 6 feet apart, wear your mask, and wash your hands regularly.  With these precautions, we can keep our campus community safe.

Information about test results at Davidson can be found here, on the college’s testing dashboard, which remains the primary source of information about test results. This dashboard is updated each day, Monday through Friday.

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Aug. 21: North Carolina State Requirement

Thank you for your continuing to look out for each other by wearing facemasks. That simple but critical step, combined with our testing and early identification, are essential to helping prevent COVID spread on campus. We see many of you outside, chatting with friends, playing spike ball or frisbee, always wearing masks. We’re grateful for your cooperation.

Today the state of North Carolina issued updated requirements and guidance for colleges and universities. Here is what is at the top of the list:  

  • Facemasks – Mask up, indoors and outdoors. The only exception is when you are eating (please mask up as soon as you’re finished) or alone in your room with your roommate or significant other, or working at a distance of six feet with a coach or trainer. We are doing well and we absolutely must keep it up and get even better.
  • 6 feet of distance – This one is tougher to keep in mind, because you’re moving. But it’s just as important. Think of yourself and everyone around you as able to transmit the virus.
  • No parties – This is what is shutting down other campuses. These are super spreader events for the virus. This is how the people you care about lose their senior year or the most safe and stable living environment that they have. Parties put our community and our neighbors at risk and they violate Governor’s Executive Order. Don’t host. Don’t go.  

President Quillen and others in leadership, along with leaders from other colleges and universities in North Carolina, met this morning with N.C. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mandy Cohen and reviewed these updated requirements. State officials have learned from what happened at other campuses and could not have emphasized more strongly that these measures are the keys to our ability to be here.

Right now it is working. We can’t relax from what we are doing. Thank you for the vigilance.

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Aug. 20: COVID Testing

Why test all students?

Testing supplements the very important rules we have in place on campus: wear a mask, stay six feet apart, wash your hands, use the symptom tracker.

As a reminder, the college instituted two testing protocols for all students living on campus or in the Davidson area: pre-arrival testing and weekly testing.  By requiring pre-arrival testing, we could identify positive cases before students left home. By testing all students weekly, we could identify positive cases, even asymptomatic ones, early to limit potential spread of the virus.

Pre-arrival testing results

We have received 1,475 pre-arrival or on-arrival (students whose pre-arrival results did not arrive were tested on arrival) test results. Among those, 13 were positive:

  • 9 were from at-home tests, and the students isolated at home before coming to campus.
  • 3 were students who had recovered months earlier (someone who has recovered from the virus and is not infectious can test positive as much as three months later.)
  • 1 was on-campus before first-year students arrived, and that student isolated and has recovered. That student’s contacts who were quarantined have tested negative.

Weekly testing results

We instituted weekly testing of all students with the aim of catching any COVID cases early. As of this morning, we have completed 671 weekly tests, and this week received one positive result.  

That student is in isolation, and their roommate is in quarantine. Contact tracing was initiated, and no other students were identified as requiring quarantine. Thank you, everyone, for wearing masks and maintaining physical distance.  

This data tells us several important things:

  • First, the virus remains a constant threat and some cases are asymptomatic.  This is why we all act as if we ourselves and everyone around us could transmit this virus:  we wear facemasks, we maintain distance, we use the symptom tracker, we wash our hands regularly and DO NOT host or attend parties.
  • Second, the testing shows the value of those safety precautions – facemasks, distance, tracker, washing, no parties – in preventing spread.
  • Third, the results reinforce the value of testing in combination with our rules in preventing the spread of this virus.

All of these precautions and steps depend on you. You are essential to keeping the people you care about safe and well. You have seen the headlines from other colleges and universities. We can only be here if you follow these guidelines.

Thank you for continuing to look out for each other and for the well-being of your classmates, friends and mentors.

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Aug. 11: Kim Ball's Message to All College Employees About Symptom Tracker

Beginning today the college has adopted a symptom tracker that all employees must use before coming to campus. The goal of this is to keep our community safe by requiring all of us to pause and check our health before we head to campus. We have a short version of the instructions for those of you who like to cut to the chase and a fuller set of instructions for those of you who want all of the details.

If you have technical problems or questions about the symptom tracker, please contact the ti@davidson.edu. If you have questions about why or how we are using the symptom tracker for employee symptom reporting, please contact HRTeam@davidson.edu.

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Aug. 5: President Quillen’s Message to Students About Return to Campus Changes

This email announces important information about changes we are making to the move-in schedule for most upper class students and about our COVID testing plan. 

I know these changes to our previously announced move-in schedule will cause considerable disruption. I very much regret that. However, given evolving conditions in North Carolina and nationally, we believe these changes are necessary. 

We will move in students more gradually, over a longer period of time. Dean Snipes will reach out with details by Friday, August 7. This change will allow us to adapt, if necessary, the plan and processes we’ve developed. It will allow us to implement weekly testing for residential students even as the testing landscape changes. We intend to have all residential students on campus by August 31.

Students whose move-in time has changed will receive an email from Dean Snipes in the next 48 hours. This email will contain your new move-in date and time. Your date may have changed by as many as 14 days. We will credit student accounts one or two weeks of room and board, depending on your new arrival date. Again, I very much regret this disruption. I genuinely believe that this more gradual move-in schedule, given current conditions in our state and nation, will serve us well, now and in the long run.

This also means that some upper class students will be taking the first two days of classes, or the first seven days, remotely. Your professors are aware of this shift and will have remote class options ready for you. 

The move-in schedule for first-year students has not changed. 

Thank you for your patience and understanding as we navigate these unprecedented and unpredictable circumstances. 

If your plans with respect to housing have changed, please contact us immediately. 

I want to provide the most current information on our plans and the data that is informing our approach. We want you to understand how we’re thinking so that you can make informed decisions.

Why offer anyone the opportunity to live on campus?  

Davidson’s mission—helping you to develop humane instincts and disciplined and creative minds—is important, not only for you but for the communities that you will serve and lead. Thanks to very dedicated people here, you will have the opportunity to learn and grow wherever you are. Our professors and staff have developed courses and experiences specifically designed to be remote and engaging. 

For many students, a remote experience this semester is the best option. For others, living close to campus but not in a residence hall might be the best option. And for others, for a variety of reasons, living on Davidson’s campus, even with many changes and restrictions, is the best option. We are making all of these options available because this is how, under very difficult circumstances, we can fulfill our mission and our commitment to each one of you.

Opening campus has risks. If we want to be on campus, we all must commit to mitigating these risks. This has to be a community commitment, one that we all make together. Our current plan reflects our belief that being on campus has value and that if we choose to live on campus or to be on campus we will commit to safeguarding our own health and that of our community. 

Context in North Carolina, Mecklenburg County and Iredell County

In North Carolina, case counts are concerning. The positivity rate (percentage of completed tests that are positive) is stable but not clearly declining. Davidson is located at the border of Mecklenburg and Iredell counties, and our immediate area has had a comparatively low infection rate per capita. At the same time the overall numbers are concerning. We watch these daily of course and consult with state officials and health care officers. In North Carolina, face coverings are required and mass gatherings are prohibited.  

The testing landscape is also concerning. Davidson has several testing partners and our plan calls for us to test each student living on campus once a week, with turn-around times of less than 48 hours. We continue to monitor the situation so that we can adapt accordingly. 

What we’re learning about the virus and transmission

It’s worth stating the obvious: we humans are the primary means by which this virus spreads. We spread it when we cough, sneeze or breathe out respiratory droplets and other people breathe them in. We spread it when we touch our mouths and noses, forget to wash our hands, and then shake someone’s hand or turn a door knob that a lot of other people then touch. We spread it when we eat sitting close to our friends. And we can spread this virus when we feel just fine. The virus disproportionately affects already vulnerable people: older people, people with pre-existing conditions, people whom our current health care system does not equitably serve, and people with inequitable access to fundamental things like housing.

Because this is the reality, life on campus will be very different, and this will be a semester like no other. We can’t prevent every single COVID case, and we have had cases in our community. What we can do and must do is minimize the spread and contain it. We need to create an environment that minimizes our opportunities to spread a virus we may not know we have, and we need to be mindful that people around us—in Commons, in the library, in CVS—may be at high risk. We need to minimize our physical contact with other people. We need to act as if we could spread a potentially deadly virus all the time. 

The Environment: ventilation, cleaning, physical distancing

Amazing people at Davidson—our RLO and student life teams, our facilities and building services team, our dining team, our fantastic professors and holistic advisors, our library, innovation, and instructional technology teams, our career development and center for civic engagement teams, our registrar team, our coaches and trainers, and our phenomenal medical team—all of these people have worked very hard to create an environment that can be safe under current circumstances so that you can have opportunities to grow in mind, body and spirit, wherever you are. 

On campus now, individuals can more easily stay six feet apart. Pedestrian traffic patterns have been marked. Commons, the Café and the Wildcat Den have been reconfigured. Ventilation and room pressurization have been optimized. There is no cross-circulation between residence hall rooms and fresh air intake has been maximized. Cleaning protocols have been rewritten and cleaning supplies are available in classrooms and the library. Touchless faucets have been installed where possible. Hand sanitizer stands have been placed in higher traffic areas. We’ve acquired a symptom checking application and a thermometer for each of you and everyone who will be on campus. 

Staying six feet apart from other people limits the spread of the virus. This is especially important indoors. Therefore, we’ve restricted access to campus buildings. Only students who live in a residence hall will have access to that hall. You will have more limited access to many campus spaces. Initially, the fitness centers will be closed. Indoor training facilities at Doe Weight room will be available only to student athletes who are working with a Davidson trainer or physician. Students living off campus will have no access to residence halls and limited access to campus buildings. 

The human factor

Because of the work of amazing people, campus can be a safe environment. You and I,  each of us, will help to ensure that the campus remains a safe environment. Because we want to be here on campus, we will do these things: 

  • Maintain a distance of six feet from other people
  • Wear a mask (or in some cases a face shield) –outdoors, as well as indoors, with very few exceptions. 
  • Wash hands frequently. 
  • Follow our testing protocol 
  • Use the symptom checker app every day

These steps are mandatory because data show they make a very significant difference. I want to be clear that when you return to campus, this is what you’re signing up for. If we choose to be on campus, we are committing to do all of these things all the time. All of us are signing up for this—every single person who comes onto campus. In these circumstances, you and I have the opportunity to make a resolute commitment to doing simple things that protect everyone. If you can’t do them, please don’t come to campus, because you won’t be able to stay and you jeopardize everyone’s opportunity to stay. 

Davidson people strive to be thoughtful, kind and capable. We care about each other. We know how this virus spreads. And therefore you and I know what we can do to keep ourselves and other people safe. Limit close contacts to your roommates and one other person. Avoid crowded spaces. Do not host or attend parties. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Use the symptom checker app. Follow the testing protocols. 

Davidson and we are far from perfect. We have a long way to go to become the place we want to be. And yet, in my time here I’ve come to see how truly special this community is. Thank you, each of you, for being a part of Davidson and for the leadership you show every day.

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