Assessing COVID risks on campus
Aug. 21, 2020
The Board of Trustees has approved Augustana College starting live classes on August 31, 2020. While the College hopes to continue live classes through the duration of the term (or through Thanksgiving break), we also recognize that circumstances could cause Augustana to revise its plans, including suspending live classes.
In March, we established the following overarching principles to guide decision-making in responding to the pandemic:
1. As a college of liberal arts and sciences, we will face uncertainty and ambiguity with courage, optimism and creativity.
2. Safety of students, employees and visitors is a primary consideration. We will be relying on public health information from the CDC, IDPH and RIPHD and recognized experts. We will not act out of fear.
3. We will make the financial investment necessary to promote student safety.
4. Augustana’s reputation will be enhanced by how we react to this crisis.
5. We will support our team members by helping them through this crisis and empowering them to provide the best outcomes for students.
6. We will act with foresight to ensure that Augustana remains strong and will be able to recover from this crisis and prosper by continuing this mission in the years to come.
Augustana, like other colleges, cannot ensure that there will be no COVID-19 cases at the college. There will be cases. Augustana Strong was developed to minimize the community spread of COVID-19, and was guided by public health standards outlined by the CDC, NCAA, IDPH, and IBHE, and the American College Association.
We will monitor the following indicators of the status of COVID-19 to guide our responses and operating plans on campus, including the possibility of revising the Augustana Strong plan or suspending live classes.
1. Number of cases, nature of cases, and hospital availability
(a) Positivity rates at Augustana and in the Quad Cities
We will monitor positivity rates on campus through regular COVID testing. Positivity rates among campus community members will be compared against positivity rates in the Quad Cities area.
(b) Number of new daily cases
We will monitor the number of new and existing cases of COVID-19 at the campus, local, and regional levels.
(c) Percent of cases linked to other known cases
We will monitor testing and contact tracing to understand what percentage of new cases are linked to other known cases. This provides an indicator of the amount of unrecognized and uncontrolled spread in our community. The higher the percentage of cases linked to other known cases, the less the risk of unrecognized spread.
(d) Hospital stress
We will monitor the availability of local hospital beds. Low availability of beds and a high number of COVID-19 patients may indicate an increased risk of community transmission.
2. Quarantine capacity on campus
We will monitor the number of beds/rooms available to house students in self-isolation or quarantine.
3. Testing capacity on campus
We will monitor testing to assess whether testing continues to be available as planned, and whether testing results are provided as planned. Community members with COVID-19 symptoms should have access to COVID-19 testing in a timely manner.
4. Treatment capacity
We will monitor the degree to which local hospitals can support a community outbreak.
5. Prevention compliance
We will monitor the degree to which campus members and visitors adopt campus prevention rules.
6. Contact tracing capacity
We will monitor our ability to control transmission of COVID-19 through contact tracing.
7. Status of comparators
We will observe the level of community spread (and ability to contain community spread) at institutions in our region similar to Augustana with similar protocols.
8. Status of therapies and vaccines
As therapies improve and/or vaccines become available, the consequences of contracting COVID-19 may diminish, allowing for greater operational flexibility and ultimately full re-opening of the Augustana community.
9. Federal, state and local policies
We will comply with federal, state, and local regulations and operating protocols.
10. Overall campus experience
We will monitor the quality of the overall educational and residential experience that we can offer our students, recognizing that continued or increased curtailments may require changes in our manner of operating to fulfill our mission.
Augustana will monitor each of the above factors and will make adjustments to the Augustana Strong plan consistent with the guiding principles set forth above. We will develop, post and update a dashboard of the most important of these items at Augustana.edu.
Augustana recognizes that revision of its plans only should be made after the consideration of all facts and circumstances. Should Augustana experience levels of community spread beyond its capability to address in accordance with public health standards or the Augustana Strong plan (considering the factors above), Augustana will consult with public health officials as to a recommended course of action, including whether to suspend live classes and/or close campus.
Modifications to the Augustana Strong plan could include, among other actions:
• Implementation of additional protective measures as called for by the situation
• Increase in testing protocols
• Adding to quarantine capacity of the college through hotel rentals
• Further steps to de-densify activities on campus
• Requests for students to “shelter in place” for a time.
• Suspension of certain activities on campus for a time.
• Suspension of live classes and conversion to distance learning for a time.
• Closure of campus through the end of the term and conversion to distance learning, with exceptions for students who have reasons not to leave.
Final decisions concerning closure of campus or suspension of activities and live classes through the end of the semester will made by the Augustana Board of Trustees, unless such action is mandated by government officials.