November 13: The National and Local COVID Landscape: What You Need to Know and Do

TO: SJU Community
FROM: Cheryl McConnell, Ph.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
RE: The National and Local COVID Landscape: What You Need to Know and Do
DATE: November 13, 2020 at 6:00 P.M.

What You Need To Know:

  • COVID-19 case counts are rising across the country, state and region. It’s not surprising that we have seen an increase in positive test results within our campus community.
  • CDC has indicated the increases are due to small gatherings that forego essential mitigations such as distancing and mask wearing.
  • Students are currently observing a 14-day period of essential-only activity, to align with the Philadelphia Department of Public Health’s recommendation designed to limit transmission to their households over the holiday and winter break.
  • We need to strengthen our efforts to avoid transmission and strictly follow guidance that avoids all non-essential activities.

I know our community is closely watching, like the rest of the country, increasing case counts of COVID-19 in cities and towns across America. Those who monitor our dashboard daily will notice an uptick in cases. While this is concerning, and we should strengthen our vigilance, I wanted to share some additional context and information.
First and foremost, we need to focus on continuing our mitigation strategies and be guided by science. We are committed to constant vigilance and reevaluation as necessary. From the start, we pledged to you to make decisions based on data and public health guidance and we will continue to do so. Period. Full stop. No exceptions.
Second, we are currently in the midst of a 14-day period of essential-only activity for students, as recommended by the Philadelphia Department of Public Health. This is designed to minimize any transmission from our campus to students’ households as they transition home at the end of the semester.
Third, our contact tracing efforts point to a few trends in transmission, and this is where I’m counting on your continued vigilance: the times when we let our guards – and masks – down. Our Department of Athletics and the NCAA refer to these higher-risk situations as “meet-greet-eat.” This is what you need to do:

  • Meet: All club, organization and other meetings (both formal and informal) must be virtual.
  • Greet: All social gatherings must be virtual. Do not visit other students’ residence hall rooms or off-campus apartments.
  • Eat: Utilize grab-and-go dining and eat in your room, if possible. Do not eat in common spaces in groups. We will be reducing table seating to one person per table.

During all essential activities, including class, grab-and-go dining, or accessing medical care, continue to maintain six feet of distance and wear a mask at all times. The only exception to masking is when you are in your private room with your roommate(s).
Additionally, we continue to see a delay in self-disclosure, which is making transmission worse. To encourage self-disclosure, I would like to clarify a few rumors. Not a single disciplinary action has been initiated due to information gathered during the contact tracing process. Furthermore, iCARE violations are identified through information received outside of the contact tracing process and all are removed from a student’s permanent record.
I know these last few weeks may seem challenging with national headlines driving concern. As always, if you are experiencing distress or impact to your studies, please take advantage of all available resources.
As always, we continue to monitor the situation and follow all public health guidance.