Update on 3/25

Each day when I publish the Daily Deac, our push-out service, Feedburner, grabs whatever is in the blog as of 5 pm and pushes it out to you sometime between 5-8 pm. After my content deadline yesterday, we received news that there is a positive case of coronavirus on campus. Since the vast majority of our students are not on campus, this news might not have an immediate impact on your household. But I do want to give you the Inside Baseball look at some of the extraordinary things that are happening right now just so you know what is going on and how seamlessly our offices are working to support students still on campus.

First and foremost, both the student who tested positive (and any other residential student who has identified that they are experiencing symptoms consistent with COVID-19) are getting outstanding care. The Student Health Service is in daily phone contact with them to inquire about how they are doing. SHS reminds them of the requirement to stay in their rooms and observe all isolation rules (no visitors, wash hands often, clean surfaces frequently, etc). They have access to a bathroom that is just for their use. Meals are delivered to their door. Residence Life and Housing also supports the student through phone or other virtual contact to check in. So for all the worrying-parent types like me, please be assured that there is significant daily communication with the student and they are getting needed support from the Student Health Service, Residence Life and Housing, dining, and other offices on campus as needed.

Second, I want to address the questions we received after the email about the positive case went out: which residence hall did the student live in/where are they now, and when were they on campus? We cannot release that information in order to protect the student’s privacy. I know that is a frustrating answer. BUT- and this is important to know! – according to infectious disease experts, individuals have to be within six feet of an infected person who has symptoms for at least 10 minutes to be at risk for transmission of COVID-19.

During the initial evaluation in the SHS, the patient was asked to provide information about individuals with whom they would have had close contact. As a matter of protocol, those individuals would have been notified of potential exposure and advised to self isolate and monitor for symptoms. After receiving a positive test for COVID-19, the Forsyth County Department of Health will also work with the student and the SHS to review the potential contact list and make notifications as needed based on risk.

It’s also important to note that the mere act of walking down the hall and passing someone (say, in the act of taking essential items home after spring break), or walking on the Quad, etc. would not be the type of contacts or activities the CDC would consider as creating a high risk of exposure. Again, individuals have to be within six feet of an infected person who has symptoms for at least 10 minutes to be at risk for transmission. Everyone has been told (for weeks it feels like to me anyway) to wash your hands frequently with soap for at least 20 seconds (or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol) to mitigate risk of touching things like doorknobs, etc. In terms of living in the residence halls (or having recently been in them), COVID-19 is transmitted through respiratory droplets, which are heavier than air. The virus drops to the ground quickly and does not float. There is not a risk from air ventilation systems. Dr. Christopher Ohl, Wake Forest Baptist Health infectious disease specialist, reminds people to stay calm, and practice social distancing. See the video ».

Third, I want to reassure any families with students still on campus that in the event their student needs care at the Student Health Service, it is safe to get that care from SHS. All students must call the SHS to schedule an appointment. During that call, students are asked about their symptoms and risk of illness with COVID-19. If they have symptoms, SHS talks to the student prior to their physical visit to get more detailed information. Additionally, all visitors (patients and others) to the Student Health Service are met by a greeter prior to entering the lobby. These individuals are evaluated for symptoms and have a temperature check prior to entering the lobby. SHS will also be expanding their telehealth options for care to further enhance social distancing measures.

In terms of physically seeing patients, the Student Health Service (with the guidance of local public health officials), created a protocol to isolate students seeking care for possible COVID-19 infection so they are away from students seeking care for other reasons. Students with symptoms of possible COVID-19 infection enter and leave the Student Health Service through a separate door not used by other patients. Assessment and treatment take place in an area separate from other examination rooms. Rooms used for COVID-19 evaluation are not used for other reasons and are decontaminated after each use, using methods recommended by the CDC.

Fourth, I want to make you aware of the new recommendations for COVID-19 testing as pertains to students living on campus. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, most people do not need a test. When you leave your residence hall room/student apartment to get tested, you could expose yourself to COVID-19 if you do not already have it. If you do have COVID-19, you can give it to someone else, including people who are high risk. While the Student Health Service is not testing, they are making a clinical diagnosis based on symptoms of fever and cough. Individuals whose clinician determines their symptoms are consistent with COVID-19 will follow the same isolation and care plans for those who received a test. So please know if your student is sick and is not given a COVID-19 test, that is not because SHS is not providing proper care, they are following the guidelines from our public health experts.

There is no treatment for COVID-19. For people with mild symptoms (fever and cough without difficulty breathing or other severe symptoms) who don’t need medical care, getting a test will not change what you or your doctor do. Testing is most important for people who are seriously ill, in the hospital, people in high-risk settings like nursing homes or long-term care facilities, and healthcare workers and other first responders who are caring for those with COVID-19. If your student has questions about their personal circumstances, they should contact the Student Health Service.

We want to be as transparent as possible about all the things that we are doing on campus for our students so parents and families are aware. I can tell you from the million meetings I have been in, there has been an absolutely incredible rallying of support from all parts of campus to help adjust to ever-changing medical and public health guidance – everything from health to housing to dining to counseling and so much more. 

I hope that helps provide some comfort in uncertain times. Know that we care deeply for our students’ wellbeing and work toward that every day.

LATE ADDITION TO TODAY’S POST: This afternoon, Winston-Salem mayor Allen Joines announced a “stay at home” order that will go into place starting Friday, March 27, at 5 p.m. 

“All individuals currently living within the city of Winston-Salem are restricted to stay at their places of residence,” the order states. “All persons may leave their residences only for essential activities, essential governmental functions, to operate essential business or as otherwise defined.”

We have been reviewing the content of the order and will be sharing how it will impact the Wake Forest community. Stay tuned for a message to detail the order (we’re working on it now).


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94) – with a mighty assist from my friends on the Crisis Management team who are subject matter experts

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