As is reflected in this week’s update of the COVID-19 dashboard, we have seen a significant increase in the number of positive cases as our community returns to campus. Based on regional and national trends, we are not surprised to see this level of increase due to the Omicron variant’s high rate of transmission. We continue to follow appropriate guidance to mitigate the virus and reduce its impact within our campus community and write today to share more information regarding our response to the current situation on campus.
A total of 30 students and 16 employees were identified as new cases last week. Our total active cases on campus, which includes on- and off-campus test results, stand at 62 (38 students, 24 employees). Those community members who have tested positive for the virus or have been contact traced are currently in isolation or quarantine on campus, at an approved off-campus location, or at home.
In anticipation of the increase in positivity rates, the Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team secured additional quarantine and isolation (Q &I) space for our students, supplementing our on-campus Q & I space with rooms through Airbnb and local hotels as needed. These spaces were secured so that we can mitigate the effects of virus and reduce the spread of infection on campus.
Students who test positive or are contact traced will be notified by Wellness Services of the details regarding their temporary Q&I housing assignment. Members of the Dean of Student’s office, Spiritual and Religious Life, and Wellness Services offices then provide support to students, regardless of their location.
While any increase in positivity rates is a concern, we encourage us all to remember that Lawrence is a highly vaccinated community—94% of our students and 93% of our employees are vaccinated. As we have learned—and have seen around the world—breakthrough cases of the Omicron variant are inevitable. We also know that vaccinated individuals, particularly those who have received a booster, are less likely to experience severe infections.
The goal of our surveillance testing and health and safety protocols is to mitigate the spread of the virus on campus and to keep the Lawrence community as safe as possible. This is especially true as we face a variant that spreads quickly regardless of vaccination status. To help us ensure that all Lawrentians remain as healthy as possible, we would like to remind all community members to do the following:
- Get a COVID-19 booster shot if you are eligible and submit proof of your booster as soon as possible. Students should send their proof to Wellness Services; employees should send their proof to Human Resources.
- Double mask or wear a KN95 mask in all indoor public spaces. Given the transmissibility of the Omicron variant, these actions provide the best protection. Masks are available in all campus buildings, and KN95 masks for the community have been ordered and should be available prior to the start of in person classes. We will share more information upon their arrival.
- Continue to practice health and safety protocols like physical distancing where possible and washing your hands.
Over the last week, we received questions regarding the availability of COVID-19 tests on-campus outside of our surveillance testing.Please note that Lawrence community members may self-select to participate in weekly surveillance testing if they are asymptomatic. Students who experience symptoms may contact Wellness Services to arrange for testing at other times. Employees who experience symptoms should seek testing off-campus. More information regarding our testing protocols can be found on the Wellness Services website.
All current policies and procedures, including the guest policy, will continue to be reviewed and adjusted by LPPT as needed to ensure that we are responding to the current situation on campus. We will also continue to review the results of this week’s testing closely and will be in touch as soon as possible regarding results and/or any adjustments to our plan to return to in-person learning next week on Tuesday, January 18.
Recognizing that more students may be in quarantine and isolation than in the past, we want to remind students that the Center for Academic Success and individual faculty members will work to help students keep up with their coursework if they are in quarantine or isolation when we return to in-person classes.
Please continue to send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. We greatly appreciate your patience as we work to answer questions as quickly as we can and thank you for your continued commitment to Honor the Pledge.
Be well, and stay well,
Lawrence Pandemic Planning Team