Lessons Learned

Yesterday’s Daily Deac shared the message about changes for the spring semester, most notably to quarantine length and location, but also increased asymptomatic testing. 

Important note for today: undergraduate students who are not in compliance with our pre-arrival requirements (COVID test, flu shot, SneezSafe, and self-quarantine for 14 days before arrival) will soon get an email telling them what they need to do. Any undergrad who lives on campus or in University-sponsored housing (and is non-compliant) cannot go into their residence hall (even just to drop off their belongings); they will have to go to the hotel to quarantine until their COVID test is back, and they will move into their room after they are released. 

Some of you had asked about lessons learned from the fall semester and how they influenced the plans for the spring. Here is some of what we learned:

COVID rates are rising

As infectious disease experts predicted, indoor holiday gatherings and colder temperatures have contributed to a resurgence of COVID-19 both locally and nationally. Governor Cooper instituted a County Alert System of Yellow, Orange, and Red to reflect infections; see Forsyth County

Where the risks are: all gatherings are not created equal

At the start of the fall semester, we encouraged students to avoid large gatherings, thinking that would be a source of infection. What we found was that it was not only large parties that caused spread of infection, it was also moments where students were eating, drinking, or talking without masks, even in small groups. So with local COVID rates at an all-time high, it is critical that students keep their masks on around others and avoid bars and restaurants as well as parties. 

Differences in infection rates

As we reviewed the data from the fall for infections and COVID spread, we found that graduate and professional school students had significantly lower rates of asymptomatic COVID infection than undergraduates. This is why we are shifting our testing focus to a wider swath of undergraduate students each week rather than graduate and professional students.

Contact tracing remains crucial

A critical factor to keeping COVID from spreading is our ability to screen, test, and protect those in our community. Contact tracing helps us know people who might be at risk of developing infection due to exposure to a positive person. It is imperative that all members of our campus community be honest about their close contacts. 

The COVID vaccine is coming (at some point)

North Carolina has released its COVID vaccine distribution plan, but we do not know how soon college students will be eligible. Even after someone gets the vaccine, until the majority of people are vaccinated, we still need to wear our masks, social distance, etc.

Some families have asked if we will require all students, faculty, and staff to get the COVID vaccine. We are not requiring it at this time (as it is still an emergency use authorization), but we strongly encourage it. Students will begin to see information about the vaccine and its benefits on campus this spring, and we encourage them to carefully consider the benefits of the vaccine. 

COVID information overload is real

We know there is a ton of info that we have pushed to students and families. It is hard to be brief with such a complex topic. Please know we have heard you, and we are always working to improve how we share information in emails and on Our Way Forward so that what you are receiving is digestible and that you can find it online when you need it.

That’s all I’ve got for today. Stay well, Daily Deacdom! 


— by Betsy Chapman, Ph.D. (’92, MA ’94)

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