December 4, Update —All quarantining and isolation on campus are now completed. In yesterday’s AICUP membership meeting, CIC-Health spoke about the benefits of both “pooled” PCR tests and antigen testing for the spring semester. We continue to evaluate options and intend to have a spring semester testing proposal by the end of next week. We are evaluating the CDC’s new guidelines on quarantine timelines, which became effective this Wednesday, and what adaptations we need should consider making. The final December and winter break hours for the Schellhase Commons are posted on “Merry on Main!”
December 2, Update — Dean Schneider has been updating his blog with special insight gleaned from a semester’s worth of action. He will meet with other Montgomery County colleges on Friday to exchange ideas and lessons learned. We reviewed our experience with Bear River, last Monday’s onetime testing provider, and we continue conversations about next semester’s testing strategies. We spoke briefly about today’s news about new vaccines and the college’s potential access to them sometime next semester. We will update the Bears Return page with information for on-campus employees interested in pixel testing.
(11/30) Note: After eight months of daily standing meetings, the task force has shifted to a new schedule, meeting three times per week. They will continue to hold special meetings whenever needed. Updates will be posted here.
November 24, Update —Nearly 530 students, faculty and staff registered for yesterday’s special testing session. Today the task force reflected on our testing operation and what we learned over the semester. We briefly reviewed the governor’s new advisory order and the state’s updated mitigation efforts. Of those “COVID commuters” who have made a final decision about the spring semester, about one-half have indicated they will live on campus next semester; we’ll continue to follow-up with those still undecided. The updated room and board adjustment policy (i.e., the “separation” policy) for the spring semester has been posted to the SFS website. We know that demand for the LabCorp Pixel tests has increased and there is limited access to them, so we are planning an early December communication to faculty and staff about other options. Last, we considered recommendations for an upcoming lifeguarding/first-aid course here on campus.
November 23, Update —Our optional testing session runs through 4 p.m. this afternoon. You are still welcome to participate, even if you haven’t registered. Please try to come at the time assigned alphabetically by your last name. The dashboard has been updated to reflect last week’s two new, unique positive results. This is the last day for faculty and staff to tell us how well we’re communicating internally—complete the survey today! A promotional plan to promote the short-term opening of the Schellhase Commons rolls-out tomorrow.
November 20, Update—We have yet to receive all results from Tuesday and Wednesday’s tests. Of the results we do have from those 2 days, there were zero new, unique positives. Contact tracing was completed for Monday’s two positive cases. We are aware that demand for the at-home LabCorp Pixel tests has significantly increased and access to them has been limited—we are looking into that issue and other options. Communications about the temporary opening of the Schellhase Commons will begin rolling out today. And an email promoting Monday’s special testing session will also be sent to the campus community early this afternoon; online registration will remain open today at https://go.ursinus.edu/Nov23Test. We strongly encourage you to sign-up!
November 19, Update —Today was a relatively short meeting. We have yet to receive results from Tuesday’s tests. We completed 1,124 tests this week, down approximately ten percent from our weekly averages (likely due to students leaving campus early for Thanksgiving). Tomorrow we’ll issue a communication with more details about the optional Monday testing session, as well as general travel updates for students and families. Just over 300 people signed up for Monday’s tests so far. The deadline to register for testing is later today. Previous Updates
November 18, Update —We recorded two new, unique positive cases from Monday’s batch of test results—one student living on campus, the other a commuting student. Contract tracing has been activated. Yesterday we issued an email about Monday’s special testing session and its online registration; we have just under 250 responses so far. We spoke briefly about a new Duke University study that confirms the “…importance of widespread testing of asymptomatic individuals to prevent transmission.” We also discussed the new state guidelines issued earlier this week. Last, we confirmed that families and off-campus friends are3 not permitted to enter the residence halls but may drive to campus to pick up their students for Thanksgiving and remote learning.
November 17, Update —We continue with our second day of testing this week. A communication will be sent this afternoon about the optional testing sessions we are scheduling for Monday, Nov. 23. We reviewed yesterday’s “tier 3” task force meeting; there was interest about the likely transition from weekly PCR testing to weekly antigen testing and other related updates. We spoke about the role the Health Corps can play in communicating these changes. Admission provided an update on spring semester events and the importance of Admitted Student Days. We remind current faculty and staff to complete the internal communications survey, which includes a few questions about COVID-related messaging.
November 16, Update—It was a busy weekend. On Sunday we communicated the results of Friday’s special testing session for BPS students. The dashboard is updated to reflect last week’s activity. We are finalizing details for next Monday’s optional on-site testing program, which will be communicated to the campus community in the next day. The larger “Tier 3” of the task force will be meeting this afternoon. The college is finalizing a marketing plan to invite community members to visit the Schellhase Commons over winter break
November 13, Update —We recorded 4 new, unique positives from Wednesday’s tests. Contact tracing continues. There were 7 new, unique positives recorded this week, 6 of whom live in BPS. As a precautionary measure, we are closely monitoring this and are emphasizing greater self-quarantine and safety measures for students in BPS. We are also conducting a special testing session this afternoon for BPS students for their wellbeing. A communication will be sent to the campus community outlining this general plan. We remain confident in the measures we’ve put in place to date and anticipated such a game plan would likely be necessary sometime this semester, given the rise of cases in the region. We believe we are well prepared to quickly and effectively respond to today’s news!
November 12, Update - We had two new, unique positive results out of 429 samples submitted from Tuesday. Contact tracing continues. An internal communications survey that includes a few questions about COVID messaging was sent yesterday to faculty and staff, who are encouraged to complete the survey. We are reviewing both CDC and Montgomery County travel recommendations, so we may provide guidance to quarantined students who have to fly or use public transportation to return home for Thanksgiving. A communication about that and other pre-Thanksgiving considerations will come in the next day or two. We also reviewed the phased facility shutdown plan that begins post-Thanksgiving.
November 11, Update —We recorded one new, unique positive from Monday’s on-campus tests. Contact tracing has been activated. Today the task force discussed the humidity challenge in the fitness center and the possibility of similar challenges in other locations across campus. We confirmed there will be an optional testing option for Monday, Nov. 23, and will ask students (and faculty/staff) to register in advance—that communication is coming soon. We also confirmed the Schellhase Commons (and the café and bookstore) will open to our Collegeville neighbors between Nov. 30 and the beginning of the spring semester, with the exception of the two weeks the campus is officially closed. We began discussing some possible enhancements to the Wismer dining space to promote health guidelines, and we emailed all students this morning reminding them of the importance of “defending the den” over these next two weeks, as cases rise throughout the region.
November 10, Update—We presented both our testing strategy and semester updates to fellow college leaders during an AICUP call yesterday, which was well received. The communication about an optional testing day on Monday, November 23 will be sent to the campus community next week, which will also include tips on how students should approach the remaining 2 weeks before Thanksgiving. So far, 51 current commuting students have let us know their intentions for living on campus next spring; 24 of those indicated they plan to return. We received a “cautiously optimistic” admission update in which the number of applications continue to trend upwards. And we briefly discussed trends about COVID-19 happening at other regional institutions.
November 9, Update - The dashboard has been updated to reflect last week’s testing and contact tracing results. We intend to communicate final plans about the November 23, optional on-campus test early next week. We’ve begun to develop a game plan supporting the likely opening of the Schellhase Commons, on a temporary basis, to the public after Thanksgiving and over the holiday break. All faculty and staff will soon receive a survey seeking for feedback on internal communications, including how well we’ve kept you updated on important COVID-related news and announcements. Last, we are closely monitoring regional and county-wide increases in COVID cases; we continue to discourage students from traveling off campus so they approach Thanksgiving break and their return home in as healthy a way possible.
November 6, Update —We’ve collected all on-campus testing results from this week and we now have 3 new, unique positives. We are also aware of 1 student who testing positive while off-campus, as well as 1 new staff member who has also tested positive off-campus. We are in regular communication with each of these college members, and contact tracing has been activated. In other news, we believe we are getting closer to adopting an antigen test for the spring. More to come. Plans concerning the opening of the Commons post-Thanksgiving are being finalized and should be communicated next week. A recording of this Wednesday night’s town hall has been posted on Bears Return. Last, we’re receiving a lot of positive survey responses from students who have been commuting and are interested in living on campus in the spring.
November 5, Update —There are no additional new positives through the first two days of on-campus testing this week. More than 450 people registered for last night’s virtual town hall, which went very well; most questions concerned testing, move-out and the spring academic calendar. Two communications are being sent to students today: one to current commuters only inquiring about their plan to move on to campus in the spring, the other to students residing on campus about move-out instructions. We spoke further about the possibility of recommending that the Schellhase Commons temporarily open to our community neighbors post-Thanksgiving through early January, but no decision has been made.
November 4, Update —We have one new, unique positive from Monday’s batch of results. We considered a few final recommendations for keeping the Schellhase Commons open to the local community during winter break. We also continue to discuss post-Thanksgiving requests related to research and academic interests. We prepared for this evening’s town hall with students and parents and are finalizing a communication about “move out.” We’re also reaching out to current “commuter” students, gauging their interest in becoming residential in the spring
November 3, Update —We discussed Pennsylvania’s “COVID-19 Information for Travelers” webpage and continue regularly evaluating our “return to work” guidelines, particularly as they pertain to quarantine recommendations. We continue to make positive strides in securing antigen testing, perhaps as early as December. More updates to come. We are wrapping up final details to provide a testing option for interested students, faculty, and staff the Monday prior to Thanksgiving. More to come on that, too. Last, the Health Corps is making progress on a social media and infographics campaign to support our Defend the Den initiatives.
November 2 Update—The dashboard was updated Saturday to reflect last week’s test results, including the one positive we recorded. We continue to explore possible testing options for any interested students, faculty and staff for Monday, Nov. 23. We continue to lay the groundwork for potential on-campus antigen testing to begin this spring. On Friday, we conducted a focus group of students currently learning remotely. The conversation was generally positive and their outlook for the spring was optimistic, though they expressed concerns about dining options and technology / connectivity. We talked about a few important points to include in the upcoming virtual open session on Wednesday evening such as our broader strategic planning efforts, student guidelines, academic courses and athletics.
October 30, Update —We had one positive out of 1,218 test samples this week. Contact tracing has been activated. On Monday, we will reach out to students permitted to remain on campus post-Thanksgiving with updated guidelines and expectations. While our normal testing operation will draw to a close on Wednesday, Nov. 18, for the semester, we are considering whether to offer a short-term option for interested students, faculty and staff who may like a final test on Monday, Nov. 23 before heading home for the Thanksgiving holiday. More details to come. We are starting a conversation about vaccines; we are taking the initiative to conduct preliminary research and are participating in webinars to learn more as this process unfolds at the national level.
October 29, Update—After two days of testing this week, we have zero new positive results. We continue to aggressively explore antigen testing options for the beginning of the spring semester, with several leads. We discussed strategic communications and how to make sure the Ursinus community knows well in advance of any possible changes/updates to our COVID operations for January. We spoke about the dashboard, which has seen a growth in page views for five consecutive weeks, totaling more than 14,500 in the past five weeks. And we spoke about clearly communicating more student-focused updates from residence life in the coming days and weeks, especially around the “move-out” process.
October 28, Update—There were zero positive results from Monday’s batch of tests. We spoke about updating (and evaluating) the signage plan at key entrance points for both winter break and the spring semester. We reviewed yesterday’s BLT session and how best to provide a few additional details to some of the questions asked. We are working through key points to include in next Wednesday night’s open session with parents and students. The major announcement about the spring academic calendar was sent to the campus community and all parents this morning. We spoke about how to support (and advise) the U-Imagine Center’s “Imagine Fest” and its 15-hour marathon event this weekend, given the current environment. A message from student affairs will be sent on Friday regarding expectations for student behavior this Halloween weekend.
October 27, Update —To date, fewer than 30 students have petitioned to remain on campus after Thanksgiving. We are considering a few options for keeping the Commons open and perhaps making it available to the local community. We are also looking at which other building would make for a good study space for those remaining students. Regarding move-out, we are likely to close residence halls around 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 25, with exceptions for those in late afternoon classes. We confirmed that proof of testing will be required during spring semester move-in; other processes that support move-in were also discussed. We spoke about spring enrollment (for transfers, international and new first-years) and how we are planning for important admission events, such as open houses. We continue to look at the new CDC definition of “close contact” and how it impacts our faculty and students. Faculty and staff are reminded to Reminder to register and submit questions for today’s BLT with Brock and Mark at noon!
October 26, Update—The dashboard has been updated to reflect last week’s zero new positive tests. We continue to make progress on implementing a possible antigen testing strategy for the spring. President Blomberg will provide an update on our fall and semester plans during a special BLT virtual session this Tuesday at noon (check the faculty staff page and email for more details today). We spoke about this week’s communications regarding the spring calendar along with a special note that will go to students who are currently commuting due to COVID-19.
October 23, Update—There are zero positive results from 1,240 tests we submitted this seek. Today is the last day for students who need to remain on campus after Thanksgiving to complete the petition for that request. We started discussing the process around pre-arrival testing in January, and we are still considering the testing schedule for the abbreviated Thanksgiving week. With final exams now concluding on Dec. 22, we spoke about making sure students are fully supported through the beginning of the faculty/staff holiday break. And we continue to review changes to the CDC’s new definition of a “close contact,” that we reported yesterday.
October 22, Update - Tuesday’s test results arrived and, like Monday, we recorded zero new, unique positives. We spoke about changes to how the CDC defines a “close contact,” which is now, “Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period…” We’re considering the possible impact of that change on the contact tracing process. More to come. We discussed the upcoming cover story for Ursinus Magazine that features the college’s response to the pandemic. We again spoke about early preparations we need to put in place for possible spring antigen testing. We discussed the likely (and temporary) opening of Café 2020 to our community neighbors during winter break, when all students are off campus. Last, we will remind students of the post-Thanksgiving stay-on-campus petition, which must be submitted by tomorrow, October 23.
October 21—Out of 405 test results from Monday, there were no positives. The Wellness Center and the task force are putting the proper procedures in place should we be able to move to antigen testing in the future. We plan to follow up with the Health Corps on ideas stemming from yesterday’s conversation. And we briefly discussed possible recommendations for MLK Week’s community service projects.
October 20, Update —Today the task force welcomed student representatives from the Health Corps. We spoke about transparency in communications and how we can encourage students to remain focused, keep them engaged and discourage growing complacent. We talked about the importance of keeping students on campus, how to streamline contact tracing and creating a “PSA” campaign of sorts to encourage participation in that process. We’ve also started discussing the possibility of spring semester antigen testing with a provider. Today, a fall semester announcement will be issued. Plans for the spring semester will be communicated to the campus next Monday or Tuesday.
October 19, Update—Today we reviewed patterns of infection and brainstormed what we are learning from our data—and how we can make the campus aware of more significant risks, should those communications ever become necessary. In the next day, President Blomberg will send a communication about-Thanksgiving and other details related to the fall semester. The dashboard was updated this weekend to show the two new, unique positive results from last week. We reviewed our travel policy and quarantine strategy, and we briefly discussed the possible availability of antigen testing during the spring semester.
October 16, Update - All test results have been shared and we have two new, unique positives. Contact tracing has already been activated. This week’s flu clinic operated smoothly and CVS proved to be a good partner. We spoke with representatives from the 2021 commencement planning committee, who presented two options to honor both the Class of 2021 and Class of 2020 in mid-May. Intentions are to share plans with the campus the week of October 26. We also spoke about the utilizations of quarantine and isolation spaces post-Thanksgiving.
October 15, Update—There was one positive from Tuesday night’s batch of results. Overall, 1,248 tests were conducted this week. We also conducted over 300 flu shots at our clinic through the end of Tuesday. Today the task force revisited general policies around freelancers and contractors visiting campus. We spoke about how to support our students’ off-campus trip to vote in Collegeville on Election Day. The spring calendar was also discussed, as was the projected breakdown of in-person and remote instruction. We will meet with representatives from the Health Corps on Tuesday, and with reps from 2021 commencement planning tomorrow. Details from those meetings to come soon.
October 14, Update —There are zero new (unique) positives from Monday’s round of on-site tests. We are presenting final spring calendar plans in several faculty meetings today, the only recommended change being a distributed spring break model. Faculty are now finalizing their class schedules for the spring, indicating whether they’ll be teaching remote or in-person. Final details to come soon. On Monday, we will officially announce our plan for the remainder of the fall semester. We may be meeting with representatives from the Health Corps soon and will also be meeting with reps from the 2021 commencement planning committee later this week. Last, we confirmed the general public is still not permitted to visit the café in the Schellhase Commons.
October 13, Update - - Yesterday’s flu shot clinic went well and attendance was good, as again was the case with our on-campus testing. We are close to announcing plans for the spring academic calendar. We talked about our ongoing contract with the Broad Institute and CIC-Health as well as the prospects of adopting antigen testing as part of our overall testing strategy. Campus visits continue to be strong and we are working closely with enrollment to continue hosting admission visitors this fall in a responsible and safe manner. We have been fielding requests from other liberal arts colleges for information about our testing operation and have been responding to those inquiries.
October 12, Update --The task force continued discussing considerations for guidelines for gatherings of student groups (such as teams and clubs) in light of updated state guidelines and are looking at maximum occupancy of current spaces in order to advise best practices.
October 9, Update —There are zero new positives this week. Todd McKinney joined the task force to discuss student activities and this semester’s residential experience. While the college continues to enhance virtual activities and on-campus programming, student feedback calls for more traditional social activities and registered events. Student affairs spoke about finding a responsible balance and its impact on future campus culture. We also spoke about some positive student feedback regarding the truncated process for “New Member Education.” We talked about different options for spring semester sports and the unknowns concerning Centennial Conference athletics. The task force started a discussion about group gatherings (both on- and off-campus) and how we can consistently approach that matter, given the evolving state recommendations.
October 8—There are zero new positives through two days of testing results. The final 382 samples were shipped yesterday. Our partnership with the Broad Institute and CIC-Health has progressed really well. We spoke with faculty council again about possible challenges we’d face should we return to campus post-Thanksgiving. We also started a conversation about the current remote work policy for staff and how that may continue through the end of the calendar year. That led to some discussion about our employees’ general wellbeing and mental health. We’ve made progress on fine-tuning options for the spring calendar, informed by recent discussions with faculty and other internal audiences. And we plan to begin evaluating our isolation and quarantine residences.
October 7, Update —There were zero positive results out of the 408 tests we conducted on campus this Monday. The link to the newly amended guidelines on “safe gathering limits” by the state can be found here. We had a good conversation with the extended task force about post-Thanksgiving activity and an early CIE spring block, considering both potential costs with the overall student experience. More details to come, but faculty are invited to preview spring calendar options on Canvas beginning today. We spoke of outside intramural sport activity and will be talking with Todd McKinney next week about how that is coming along.
October 6, Update —Today, the commonwealth will announce changes to its indoor and outdoor occupancy limits for non-curricular activities. We will share a link to that news in tomorrow’s update. A communication about next week’s flu shot clinic will be sent to campus members today. We discussed challenging national trends facing fall enrollment and applications. We updated one another on potential outdoor changes necessary to address the colder weather in November and December. he extended task force meets today; the priority of that meeting is to collect feedback on the spring calendar options.
October 5, Update — The Task Force spoke about communications and how to best update the campus community on our progress to date. We are preparing for an extended taskforce meeting scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. We have one new (unique) positive last week and the dashboard has been updated to reflect last week’s data. The Wellness Center will begin aggressively promoting next week’s flu shot clinic, on campus from October 12-14. Faculty and staff will have dedicated clinic times from 4 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. those afternoons. We are in discussions with the Broad Institute about extending our contract. We continue to speak with specific internal audiences about the spring calendar and will be posting those options to Canvas for broader consumption soon.
October 2, Update — Final results from the week: one new (unique) positive total for the week’s results. We will update the dashboard on Saturday with final numbers. The college will host our first flu clinic on campus from October 12-14, and it is our expectation that all faculty, staff and students on campus will participate in that program. An announcement will be coming soon about that. We are also reviewing the updated guidelines for colleges that CDC issued on September 30. We spoke with the new faculty council about spring academic calendar options and will continue to present the options to other internal audiences over the coming days. These possibilities include early start dates, a later semester conclusion and potential changes to spring break. Last, we reviewed requests for PPE supplies and other related issues.
October 1, Update —We conducted 1,230 tests this week. Though we are waiting for results, we received news of one new positive so far. We continue to look into possible antigen testing as another longer-term option for the campus community, along with additional support to efficiently manage that process. We continued discussions about the spring academic calendar. Last, the task force talked about updating plans should we need to close campus because of a rise in positive cases, which will be shared with both the commonwealth and the county soon.
September 30, Update - This is the seventh week of testing. Monday’s results arrived with no new positive cases. Members of facilities, as well as staff members who are involved in the testing operation, are also being tested on-site this week. We looked at possibly expediting testing just prior to Thanksgiving break. The task force also began detailed discussions about different academic calendar options for the spring, including several scenarios for move-in. The implications on MLK Week were also discussed. We will begin soliciting feedback in the coming days.
September 29, Update —Today is the second day of testing this week. Yesterday’s testing in the field house went very well. We will be updating signage at entrance ways to more clearly communicate that campus is closed to visitors until further notice. We continue to explore different options for the spring academic calendar, which will be presented for feedback on Canvas at a later time. We spoke about how challenging the college search process is for high school seniors, and how admission continues to engage with school counselors about the college’s plans. And we continue to look at ways to enhance our dashboard. We continue with plans to coordinate the on-campus flu shot “clinic.”
September 28, Update —The college remains in the “old gold” phase. Over the weekend, we reported good results: zero new, or unique, positives out of the 1,160 results. No one remains in isolation. Beginning next week, daily tests will run from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Wednesday. We have a few extra tests and may begin offering them on a first-come, first-served basis to a pre-defined list of employees who remain in frequent contact with students and campus visitors. More details to come. We will engage the expanded task force as well as the new faculty council on discussions about the spring academic calendar. We spoke about the mental health of our students and how we can support them as we progress through the fall semester.
September 25, Update —All of this week’s test results are back. We have zero new positives out of 1,160 test results. We continue to streamline the process and communication between case managers and contact tracers. Basic intramural activity—cornhole tournaments, for example—may begin Oct. 12, and athletic practices are proceeding well. Athletic Director Laura Moliken continues to meet regularly with counterparts from across the conference. At yesterday’s trustee business meeting, we provided key updates related to our COVID-19 response. We continue to consider seasonal weather and its impact on outdoor classroom spaces. We are also evaluating student flow in Wismer and working with dining services on plans for the future.
September 23, Update —All results from Monday’s 360 tests, now conducted by the Broad Institute, were negative. We are awaiting results from the 434 tests taken yesterday. CIC-Health has been responsive and has helped us successfully implement our new internally coordinated testing operation. Today we also spoke about more definitive and consistent timelines for isolation, quarantine and general contact tracing. We are looking into the details of Pennsylvania’s new contact tracing app—COVID Alert PA—which lets you know if you have come in contact with someone who has tested positive. That app can now be downloaded for free.
September 22, Update —We had 370 students tested yesterday—the first day of the new testing procedure in the field house—and the process went well. It was decided that students in on-campus quarantine who are asymptomatic should continue testing in the field house at their regular times. We spoke about re-engaging the different task force tiers as we look towards longer-term planning. Students are still approved to use external food delivery services if they wish. And we are looking at ways to enhance the dashboard.
September 21, Update —Today begins the new procedures for on-campus tests, students who have not scheduled a weekly test for the rest of the semester should proceed to the field house during testing 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. to receive this week’s test and set a regular time. The dashboard is updated with the results from last week. Of 1,165 tests there were Seven positive results.
September 18, Update —Of 792 results to date from this week’s on-campus tests, there are six new positives. Contact tracing, as usual, is being activated. We are conducting a dry run this morning as final preparation for the change in on-site testing that will occur on Monday. The Health Corps will help further promote adoption of the self-assessment tool in MobileU, and we encourage all faculty and staff to use the app daily to monitor their wellbeing. Last, Upper Wismer will be open for in-house seating beginning this Sunday with an expanded menu. The automated counter system for analyzing traffic in Upper Wismer is just about complete.
September 17, Update—We conducted 1,204 on-campus tests this week. Final results should arrive within the next two business days. We are in a very good position to make the transition to our new testing partners next week. A significant majority of students have reserved a testing time slot for the rest of the semester, and the weekly online scheduler is no longer available. We are creating an “express test pass” for students who have visited Wellness Center with possible symptoms to expedite their on-site visit. The task force also discussed the beginnings of a “pivot to remote learning plan” should it ever become necessary.
September 16, Update - Today is the final testing day of the week which will see nearly 1,200 total tests conducted in the field house. We are reminding the community that students are always expected to have their Ursinus ID while on campus and must have their ID when visiting the field house for tests. The task force analytics team has begun looking into statistics and early transmission rates for both resident and commuter students. We also previewed upcoming athletic practices and the process around testing, particularly for those student-athletes who are commuter or remote learners. Currently, seven case managers are actively overseeing our quarantine process, and we continue to find ways to upgrade the experience of those living in on-campus quarantine. The Health Corps is interested in providing additional support. Last, the task force has begun to consider longer-term options for both testing and for the spring semester—though any discussions are very preliminary at this point.
September 15, Update - Today is the second of three testing days this week. Yesterday, 370 tests were completed and there are another 436 scheduled for today. We are finalizing a few changes to next week’s on-site testing operation to make the transition from Impact Health, to our in-house managers, as seamless as possible. Today at 2 p.m. the BLT for faculty and staff will discuss these changes. (Sign up here.) We are expecting five students to return from quarantine today. The task force is making progress on an on-campus flu shot clinic later this semester. Last, Ursinus continues to be involved in weekly AICUP-sponsored conference calls about possible advice on “return home” procedures should they ever become necessary this semester.
September 14, Update —Testing has begun this week and will occur through Wednesday, This Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, model will be the regular schedule for the remainder of the semester. We updated the dashboard to reflect five new positive tests (all in off-campus isolation) and a total of 22 students in quarantine. We spoke about upcoming changes that will enhance the testing operation, which will be communicated to campus later this week. We are putting up signage in the Commons lobby to ensure campus visitors for admission feel welcome. And faculty and staff are invited to participate in Tuesday’s BLT (check the faculty/staff page later today for topic information).
September 11, Update - Sodexo confirmed that “grab-and-go” dining will continue through next week, with the hope to move to indoor seating next weekend. We are putting up additional signage in Wismer to reinforce physical distancing and safety measures; Health Corps may help communicate those guidelines. We met again with the county office of public health about testing and decisions around isolation periods. They recommend all faculty set 15-minute timers when engaging closely (around 6 feet) with students and were complimentary of our current process. We were among many colleges to meet with the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP) to begin a discussion about what should happen if colleges need to go fully remote. We also spoke about doing a better job of acknowledging students who are commuting or learning remotely as part of our campus community.
September 10, Update - Today is the final day of on-campus testing for the week. The task force spoke about physical distancing issues in and around Wismer, and how we can better work with Sodexo to continue implementing those requirements. We also spoke about increasing student vigilance in following student guidelines in the evening and “off-hours.” We are putting up more policy and safety reminder signage around gateways and main access points to athletic fields. We are speaking this afternoon with a representative from the Montgomery County Office of Public Health to discuss how things are proceeding on campus. Students who are commuting are reminded that they need to participate in weekly testing to continue coming to campus. We continue to look at how to best provide on-campus flu shots this fall. Last, we issued an update on faculty and staff testing guidelines yesterday, and updated the Bears Return pages to reflect that news.
September 9, Update - On Tuesday, we completed 458 tests. Only seven students missed their appointment times. Beginning next week, we are strongly encouraging students to use the online schedule to “lock in” a weekly time slot for the remainder of the semester. In response to questions about quarantining, it is important to note we continue to support and to promote the county’s policy. We currently have five case managers led by Katie Turek who are working with the county and leading those efforts on campus. A reminder that masks are required in the fitness center, even when physically distanced. And we are working towards an on-campus option for flu shots; we plan to make those shots a requirement and will communicate more details soon.
September 7, Update —Today the task force updated the dashboard to reflect two new positive cases (now in off-campus isolation) and seven contacts now in quarantine. We spoke of the process for this weekend’s check-in. Returning students are adjusting to expectations and have all been made aware of the student guidelines updated last Friday. We are also updating the COVID testing guidelines for faculty and staff, specifically around the specifics of student interaction. We continue to work closely with the county department of health to clarify more details around isolation and quarantine protocols. This week’s on-campus testing will occur Tuesday through Thursday. Last, the new self-assessment tool found in MobileU’s “safety and emergencies” section goes live this afternoon.
September 3, Update — Today the task force confirmed one positive result thus far from 272 tests conducted on Tuesday. Wednesday’s results should be arriving soon. Contact tracing has been effectively activated and is still in progress. We are updating the dashboard to now include the number of staff and faculty who may be identified as contacts or who may need to quarantine. The online sign-in for next week’s on-campus testing, which is expanded to Tuesday, Wednesday AND Thursday, is now open and available to students. The new daily self-assessment feature in “Mobile U” is now in final testing and should be officially rolled out later next week. To date, the Wellness Center has collected more than 660 pre-arrival tests from returning students with only one confirmed positive case. Last, all offices should have received “welcome back kits” and, in designated areas of each building, no-touch thermometers. Additional information will be provided soon in upcoming HR-related communications.
September 2, Update— The task force continues to work with Collegeville leaders to discourage borough neighbors from visiting campus while in the Old Gold phase. Yesterday’s testing operation went relatively well, all available time slots were filled with very few missed appointments. Today, it is likely that 12 of the 13 students in on-campus quarantine will return to their rooms, while one of the two off-campus students in isolation may return to campus as well. To date, the Wellness Center has received 590 pre-arrival tests for returning upperclass students, and we will continue to collect those results through Sunday. The BLT for faculty and staff at 1 p.m. today will provide updates on dining services, support for commuting students, testing and other key topics. On an important final note, we are still in need of significant support for move-in this week, especially on Sunday. All faculty and staff are encouraged to volunteer. Sign up is at this link!
August 31, Update —There were no new positive results from last week’s testing. We are reviewing final options to expand the on-site testing operation to most effectively accommodate all returning students. We will continue to communicate information regarding the dashboard, which has been updated and is live. Important reminders and announcements about the upcoming move-in/check-in process will be sent later this afternoon. (Also note that student affairs is asking for additional volunteers to assist during move-in later this week.) We are fine-tuning the communications of the protocols and expectation of students in quarantine. Human resources is gathering more details around employee testing and what is covered through insurance. Stay tuned for more information on that for faculty and staff.
August 28, Update —To date we have received 252 results from this week’s tests with no positives. (We are awaiting results from nearly 200 more.) The final numbers will be reflected in the updated dashboard on Monday. We are meeting with dining services to review a few different, newer options for when all students return, with the goal of relieving pressure on Upper Wismer. We spoke again of refining the quarantine process and will be asking those students who quarantining off campus to get tested around the 10-days mark. We’ve established a contact tracing phone bank in Pfahler to facilitate that process. Students will be again reminded that only current residents are permitted within residence halls. And we are preparing a communication to returning sophomore, junior and senior students once again reminding them that pre-arrival testing is required, without exception.
August 27, Update —After the second week of testing, we estimate that nearly 440 tests were conducted on-campus. When available, the results will be shared on the dashboard. Our thanks to staff members Sam Harvey and Laura Cunningham who volunteered to support Katie Turek as internal case managers. We will be updating the dashboard to include a description of the timing and process for communicating results. The next campus communication on Monday, will clearly outline this process. We discussed dining services and ensuring students remain physically distanced when around—and in—Wismer. The bookstore is reminding students they must order all textbooks online through its website now, in order to have them in hand when the full semester begins. Last, we spoke about athletic / recreational activity around campus during the “old gold” phase. We considered our approach those activities that may break with physical distancing guidelines, while also supporting the mental and physical health of the students.
August 25, Update - The task force discussed our participation with Collegeville’s Business Development Committee and our communications with the community about the public avoiding campus. The process for escorting students into quarantine and isolation was reviewed and updated. The college has hired temporary staff—previous students—to support our COVID planning and processes and are looking at additional internal case managers to support Katie Turek. The contact tracing program is under the official direction of the county’s Department of Health and the task force continues to work in support of the county for the implementation. Today’s begins another round of testing and the online scheduler, which was re-activated last Friday night, continues to be helpful. A recap of these past few days will be provided for faculty and staff at tomorrow’s BLT session at 1 p.m.
August 21, Update - Today the task force was made aware of the first two positive results coming from this week’s on-campus testing. Both students have returned home for their isolation period. Three additional students have been quarantined, one of whom remains on campus for quarantine. We anticipated we would have positive results early this semester and campus partners have quickly come together to address the issue. Contact tracing has been activated. Quarantine guidelines are finalized and are being shared with students. While we are closely following our plans, this is an important reminder for each of us “Defend the Den.” A communication update, including a short video message from Mark Schneider, will be shared early this afternoon through social media channels and the Bears Return pages.
August 20, Update - We received the results of the approximately 200 tests conducted on campus this Tuesday, and there were zero positives. In total, we’ve conducted about 450 tests covering both days. The scheduling app and the process has gone smooth to date. New signage will appear early next week at all entranceways, asking visitors to remain off campus during the “old gold” phase. A reminder for everyone that masks MUST be worn in all public areas, including outdoors. The task force also spoke about cleaning services, the finalization of the quarantine plan and the self-assessment questionnaire that will be available in MobileU within the next 7-10 days.
August 18, Update -With first-years arriving, we walked through plans about this testing operation beginning today 11:00. We walked through the latest isolation and quarantine guidelines and will be posting those to the Bears Return page soon. We welcome Katie Turek from UCARE, who will play an important role in coordinating activity and communications between impacted students and relevant parties across campus. And we walked through procedures for those incoming students who may need to quarantine because they haven’t yet received their test results. Please join us on Wed at 1:00 for our next BLT!
August 13, Update - The task force recently met with LIT to discuss progress on several key technology projects, including updates to self-monitoring in MobileU, occupancy counts in Wismer to manage traffic and physical distancing, and online scheduling for the weekly student tests. We also spoke about using Myrin for dedicated spaces for virtual learning and for commuter students. We held conversations with Collegeville leadership about vocalizing support for one another. We are moving forward with plans for our internal case manager and discussed final details regarding our partnerships with an external test lab and on-site testing administrators. Our final testing process will be communicated to the campus community within a day or two.
August 11, Update– The task force met with LIT to discuss all ongoing technology projects, including updates to self-monitoring in MobileU, occupancy counts in Wismer to manage traffic and physical distancing, and online scheduling for the weekly student tests. We also spoke about using Myrin for dedicated spaces for virtual learning and for commuter students. We’re moving forward with plans for our internal case manager and discussed final details regarding our partnerships with an external test lab and on-site testing administrators. We all have changed the location of the first series of first-year student tests to the FLB gym from the fieldhouse, in order to accommodate registration.
August 6, Update —The task force recently discussed the successes of the admission office and continues to fine tune health and safety guidelines as we transition to the start of the semester and welcoming students back to campus. It reviewed the modeling information that Dean Schneider has been managing and presented at the August 5 BLT.
August 4, Update – The task force worked on the faculty and staff testing procedures, upcoming communications including those to faculty and staff about the returning to work, and the planning of ongoing health and safety training for the community.
July 27, Update – The task force is in final discussions with potential testing partners, and the resulting process for pre-semester and in-semester testing procedures will likely be communicated in the next few days. We are looking at personnel who can manage the scheduling, coordination and overall internal logistics of the process. We will also finalize the official faculty/staff “return-to-work” guidelines in the coming days and post them to the Bears Return page.
July 24, Update – The task force took steps towards an updated color alert system. It will accompany a new dashboard that will indicate progress on several key measures including testing results. We are meeting again this afternoon with medical firms on testing procedures and logistics. The task force also reviewed a comprehensive extra-curricular / student activity plan that focuses on the students’ on-campus residential experience. We also provided final edits to our employee return-to-work guidelines document.
July 22, Update – We spoke about the process around testing and having internal “case managers” help coordinate and organize this important function. The college is speaking with vendors and other partners about how they intend to regularly test their employees as well. We have decided to postpone Thursday’s athletics town hall until we receive further guidance from the NCAA, and we have begun finalizing a self-isolation process for those students coming from “hotspots.”
July 20, Update - We’ve had a very good response rate on the student questionnaire we sent last week, asking for their housing and learning intentions. We also are in new conversations with several potential partners on testing, in addition to Quest and LabCorp, so that we may routinely and quickly conduct testing throughout the semester. Last, we are preparing for 3 important sessions: this week’s BLT, and the upcoming athletics and student affairs virtual town halls.
July 17, Update - The task force is close of detailing a comprehensive approach to manage testing of students, faculty and staff this semester. We are reviewing Governor Wolf’s new mitigation order that began July 15, and are studying any new implications for our campus. A student survey on housing and remote learning intentions was sent this morning, and other communications–including a new series of re-envisioned weekly BLTs–will roll-out next week. Last, we continue to address, as quickly as possible, dozens of questions submitted each week and post new and updated answers on the Bears Return pages.
July 16, Update - The Task Force continues to review questions surrounding reopening this fall and discussed the process for students choosing a remote option and how that information will be communicated.
July 13, Update - The Task Force continues to discuss testing and is preparing its final health and safety guidelines document. It has also discussed the requests for use of our facilities, as well as recent state Department of Health quarantine recommendations.
July 10, Update - The Task Force continues to review testing options and is also working on a guidance document for faculty and staff parallel to the recently released one for students. They were joined by theater, dance and music faculty to discuss class and performance spaces for the fall semester. Two town halls were held this week for students and their families. Over the next few days, the FAQ pages are being updated with answers to many of the questions and the recordings will be posted to the web next week.
July 7, Update - Task Force Update -Preparations are being made for town halls this week for new and returning students, and a draft of student guidelines was shared with families in an email sent on July 6.
June 22, Update – At 12:30 p.m. today, President Blomberg shared an update regarding the upcoming fiscal year. Please check your email for this important message.
June 19, Update – The college will announce decisions about our new fiscal year budget on Monday, June 22, followed by an email that shares our fall semester re-opening plans on Wednesday, June 24. We are fine-tuning the Ursinus-specific “phases” that provide additional clarity around our guidelines, particularly those for visitors and external audiences. We are moving quickly to implement a streamlined testing process.
June 18, Update – Plans regarding the college’s re-opening were shared with trustees at yesterday’s business meeting. That announcement, along with anticipated budgetary changes for FY21, are being finalized. A new COVID-19 landing page has been created to share audience-specific information, including re-opening guidelines. Student Affairs continues to make progress with “move-in,” and we continue to work towards a comprehensive testing plan for all campus members that kicks-in prior to their official return to Ursinus.
June 17, Update – The taskforce is working on two key communications for the next few days: plans for the college’s re-opening and anticipated institutional changes for FY21 as a result of the pandemic. Student Affairs has drafted a comprehensive “move-in” plan for students that will be communicated begin in early July. We are fine-tuning a process that allows all students, faculty and staff to be tested prior to their arrival on campus. We are investigating ways to install outdoor tents for academic and co-curricular activities. And we are working with Olympus on expanded clearing and janitorial plans.
June 10, Update – The taskforce is collecting final feedback from faculty about potential options for the fall semester. We also spoke staffing and preparing the Wellness Center as effectively as possible for the fall. We continue to investigate proposals from Quest and LabCorp about testing. We are working with facilities on an inventory of our buildings to promote social distancing measures. And we thank Collegeville Mayor Aidsand Wright-Riggings for his video messaging promoting LIVE! on Main, our new virtual event series!
June 8, Update – The taskforce is making progress on return-to-work guidelines for faculty, staff and students. Those guidelines will live on a webpage and as documents. A preliminary “phased” approach for the re-opening has been drafted that outlines key dates and addresses important questions. We discussed the different measures that facilities may undertake in buildings to promote social distancing. Last, a series of questions is being sent to Montgomery County colleges to encourage discussion and offer “best practices” in the region. June 5 Update – As the country transitions to the “yellow phase,” most Ursinus employees are asked to continue to work remotely. We continue to make progress on the re-opening strategy, which aligns closely with June 3’s preliminary re-opening guidelines announced by the PA Department of Education. We reviewed ongoing cleaning operations, ideas around a travel policy and upcoming communications.