This message is sent on behalf of Penny Rue, Vice President for Campus Life.
Dear Wake Forest students,
As our situation with COVID-19 continues to evolve, we are writing to provide updates on quarantine and isolation protocols in our Orange Operating Status. Because we are experiencing an increase in students who have tested positive for COVID-19, have symptoms or have been exposed to someone who has tested positive, we have made adjustments to our quarantine and isolation practices in consultation with infectious disease experts. These measures will help us manage the number of students who need to be in quarantine and isolation to help our community reduce the spread of the virus.
Managing Hotel Space Capacity
Currently, our hotel space is being reserved for students in isolation — those who are symptomatic and/or have tested positive for COVID-19. In some cases, we are asking students in our hotels who are symptomatic and test positive for COVID-19 to share a hotel room. We have secured additional hotel space, and it will be available soon.
Quarantine-in-Place in Residences
Because our hotels are needed for students who have symptoms and/or have tested positive, we are asking students who may have been exposed to someone who tested positive but have not exhibited any symptoms to quarantine-in-place for 14 days in their living spaces if they live in a single room. Expectations for quarantining-in-place have been shared with students needing to quarantine.
Use of Unassigned, Vacant Rooms
Residence Life and Housing is using unassigned, vacant rooms to assist in the quarantine process. These rooms may be used to house a student who has been asked to quarantine-in-place but should not do so in his or her current space. Additionally, it could be necessary to relocate a non-exposed student in order to facilitate an appropriate arrangement for a quarantined student.
Information concerning the use of vacant spaces, and the guidelines for students needing to quarantine-in-place, were shared today with students in applicable circumstances. Decisions to relocate students will be made based on public health guidance.
Dr. Chris Ohl, Wake Forest Baptist Health Infectious Disease expert, has helped Wake Forest University navigate the pandemic and shared this information with University officials earlier today:
“This past summer, we created contingency plans for surges like what we are experiencing this week. The practice of having students quarantining in their rooms and doubling students who are in isolation in hotel rooms was reviewed closely in relation to both the CDC guidelines regarding households and congregate living environments and our own Wake Forest-specific public health guidelines.
In my opinion, and from the experience we have seen on campus and in other settings, sharing a bathroom with someone in quarantine is not a high risk as long as students wear masks, stay six feet apart in all common areas and wash hands thoroughly. Additionally, the practice of isolating people who tested positive with others who also tested positive from households and congregate settings has been in use all year for off-campus students, but not in hotels until this week. We will continue to evaluate all our public health measures as the situation evolves.”
Because some students have changed their plans and locations in the last several days, all undergraduate students are being asked to go to the Housing Portal to indicate their current location status for the week of Feb. 8-14. Please complete this task by tomorrow at 5 p.m.
Guidance for Students who Leave for an Extended Period
As a reminder, students in quarantine or isolation can decline temporary COVID-19 University housing. To do so, students must agree to certain expectations and submit a declination request. Information and the declination form are available here. These steps are important to follow so that students take the necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19 elsewhere.
Students not in quarantine or isolation who choose to leave campus should be aware that instructors are not obligated to accommodate or shift coursework for absences in their courses due to voluntary departures. Students will need to discuss with their instructors what options may be available if they are absent as a result of a voluntary departure. Students should notify Residence Life and Housing and the Office of Academic Advising if they are leaving for an extended period (five days or longer) or changing to remote residency.
Why Not Move to Red Operating Status?
Moving to Red Operating Status requires consideration of a variety of factors. We currently have a high volume of cases that is stretching our capacity to isolate and quarantine. Solving the capacity problem safely and appropriately while remaining committed to our academic mission is our top priority. We continue to have confidence in the safety of our monitored academic spaces and classroom settings. Classrooms and monitored study spaces have all been designed for seating that maintains a distance of six feet or more between individuals and occupancy requires the use of face coverings. These measures follow CDC guidelines for learning environments.
Many of the measures we are implementing are steps that would be taken in a more comprehensive shelter-in-place, including the quarantine-in-place standards in the residence halls. At this time, with expanded capacity to accommodate isolation of positive cases, the situation is manageable if students continue to follow the guidelines and practices that are published on Our Way Forward. However, we continue to monitor the various factors that we consider and prepare for a move to Red Operating Status if we determine it is necessary.
We know there are other questions about various aspects of campus life as we navigate this surge. Recently, undergraduate students received an academic update and weekend post office hours were adjusted. The Our Way Forward website continues to be a good resource for information, and the Call Center is also available from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST) through this Friday, Feb. 12 at 336-758-7500.
How You Can Help
We know that this situation is very frustrating, but as we try to curb the spread of COVID-19, here are a few things you can do to help.
- Continue following public health guidelines. Wear a mask (even with roommates and suitemates), stay six feet apart and wash your hands frequently.
- Limit in-person gatherings to those with whom you live, avoid bars and restaurants and observe the statewide curfew. Dining options are grab and go. All student organization activities are to be virtual, and students are being held to the student code of conduct. We have added an update on conduct cases to the Our Way Forward website.
- Work together. Just as we did in the fall, we can manage this surge if we work together. Please continue to do your part for the entire community.
Thank you for your continued vigilance. We will keep you updated as the situation develops. Please stay healthy and safe.
Vice President for Campus Life