September 6, 2020
Dear Members of the Hobart and William Smith Community,
We write today with what will be the first of planned weekly updates to the community regarding the health and safety of the entire on-campus population as we continue to navigate the pandemic. If there is a fast-breaking situation, we will also report on that in between regular updates.
As we conveyed in our message during the first week of classes, The Colleges have instituted surveillance testing of campus, administering between 200-300 tests per week of people drawn from multiple spaces and affinity groups across campus as well as testing all people who report symptoms related to COVID-19. We continue to use the Broad Institute in Cambridge, Mass., for our testing, with continued fast turnaround on results.
We currently have four positive cases identified from our testing; all are students. Contact tracing on those individuals has been completed and for any close contact that was reported, staff from the Hubbs Health Center and/or the Ontario County Public Health Department have already been in touch with you. Those students have been placed in isolation and are receiving regular monitoring, and anyone with whom they lived and/or had close contact is in quarantine. The initial testing of those in quarantine has come back negative. We will test everyone in quarantine again after seven days, or sooner if they report symptoms. We continue to monitor vigilantly both the on and off campus situation and ask anyone who has any symptoms or who believes they may have been in close contact with someone who is positive, either on or off campus, to call Hubbs Health Center. Consistent with our past practices, faculty will receive notice from the Deans offices of students who are not able to attend class based on reports from Hubbs Health Center.
Please note that attending or teaching a class, or living in the same residence hall with a person who tested positive is not necessarily defined as close contact so long as you maintained safety protocols including wearing a face covering and practicing social distancing. You may find yourself responding in the affirmative to a question on the daily wellness survey; that does not automatically signal the need for a quarantine. Instead, it allows us to be extremely careful and to check in with those who do indicate “yes,” to assess risk.
The one positive case we identified during our mass testing of all incoming students has completed the required isolation. Since the beginning of the semester, we have also had some students enter into quarantine due to travel restrictions or contact exposure; those quarantines are concluding this week with negative testing in all cases. We remind you that: students may report they are unable to attend class because of either isolation or quarantine; quarantine can occur for any of a number of reasons; and there will be students going into and coming out of isolation and quarantine on any given day throughout the semester. We ask faculty and staff to please work with these students so that they can continue with their coursework and academic support during these times.
While we know no one wants to hear that we have positive cases, we have anticipated that this would happen and prepared for their management. Along with the county health department, with whom we are in continual contact, we are organized and able to care for our students and protect the overall health of the HWS community, and will continue to do so. The best way to thwart the spread of the virus is to be absolutely strict in our collective use of face coverings and in our observance of social distancing and cleaning protocols. Please continue your diligence in the days and weeks ahead.
As we move forward, we recognize that news (and rumors) can spread quickly, and we are not always able to get official notices out ahead of them. But we are committed to keeping the community abreast of the situation and to inform you when we have reliable information.
Finally, the Colleges are preparing to offer multiple opportunities for community members to receive the seasonal flu vaccine. Additional information about that process will be shared in the coming days.
Provost and Dean of Faculty
Vice President for Campus Life