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Sept. 28 campus briefing; guidelines remain in place

Sept. 28, 2020

Students are asked to stay on campus as much as possible, keep their social groups small and continue to follow other guidelines.

Augustana President Steve Bahls and Dean of Students Dr. Wes Brooks updated campus on the latest COVID-19 numbers and stressed that efforts must continue.

"We are proud of the cooperation and commitment we’ve seen here at Augie," said President Bahls. "I want to add that this is not a time to slow down our practices. This virus isn’t letting up, and we can’t either."

Dr. Brooks said the most important thing for students now is to keep their close friend groups small.

"Tighten the pods and clusters of people you gather with," he said.

The college has recorded 74 people in quarantine currently. Last week, there were 52.

"With our uptick in quarantine numbers, contact tracing indicates that has been primarily through close social interactions among individuals and small groups of three to four people, often those who live together, eat together or meet together.," he said. "There is no evidence that the small uptick in cases is due to large parties or interactions in classrooms."

Augustana has conducted 1,168 COVID-19 tests as part of its voluntary surveillance testing since the beginning of classes a month ago. Testing of students and employees takes place on Tuesdays, and data is shared through an online dashboard on Mondays.

Through the testing, the college has identified five positive cases, one inconclusive test, and 1,162 negative tests. 

The same group of people is tested every Tuesday of the month for one month. This allows the college to monitor the spread, or the lack of spread, on campus, said Dr. Brooks.

He said efforts are made to see that those tested represent various areas of campus: areas of study, different residence halls and Transitional Living Areas, athletes, students in the fine arts, and Greek life.

"As expected, we have seen a small uptick in cases the longer we are in school," he said. "While the number of cases is still relatively small, with each presumed case comes a flurry of activity that results in students being temporarily sequestered, sometimes quarantined and, still less frequently, isolated." 

Data as of Sept. 28:

• 13 people are in isolation because they are symptomatic or have had a positive COVID-19 test. Eight of them are isolating on campus and five off campus. 

• 74 people are in quarantine because they have had close contact with someone who is symptomatic or with someone who has had a positive COVID-19 test, though they themselves have not tested positive and are not symptomatic.

• 42 of those 74 are in quarantine housing on campus, either in an alternate space or quarantining in place, and 32 are quarantining off campus. 

• No students are sequestering. (People in sequester have had close contact with suspected but unconfirmed cases.)

"This sequester number is very good news as the sequester number can quickly elevate a quarantine number if test results are still pending and they come back positive," Dr. Brooks said. "That is not the case as of today with zero students sequestered at this time."

Fifty of those in isolation and quarantine are on campus, while 37 others have gone home for that time period. 

Dr. Brooks said campus guidelines and rules for students remain in place:

• Stay on campus, as much as possible. Continue to limit visits home and or to places in the Quad Cities.  

• Keep the group of people you gather with small.

"What we have seen so far has been mainly through close social interactions among individuals and small groups, often those who live together, eat together or meet together," he said. "There is no evidence that the small uptick in cases is due to large parties or due to interactions in classrooms. 

• Limit the number of guests in residence halls rooms. Please do not have more than one guest in a residence hall room. 

• Do not go to The District in downtown Rock Island.

• Use only outdoor spaces of restaurants and other public venues.

• Group gatherings that are not directly sponsored by the college must remain no larger than 10 people.