November 16, 2020: Public Health Update (Students)

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update

Date: November 16, 2020

Dear students,

We have made it past the election and the Thanksgiving holiday is in sight. As you are undoubtedly aware, the coronavirus pandemic has entered an alarming new phase with cases rising sharply in most parts of the country and moderate increases in Connecticut. Despite the rigorous testing and safety protocols the University put in place, we are not immune from these trends as we have also seen an increase in cases recently, though our positivity rate remains quite low. As of today, the COVID-19 dashboard reports five active cases among students and nine among employees.

As a reminder, Wesleyan’s campus alert level is currently YELLOW, and students are advised to avoid any unnecessary travel off-campus (with exceptions only for essential travel, such as to medical appointments or the pharmacy). In addition, the Freeman Athletic Center remains closed.

To keep our campus as safe as possible, I urge everyone to continue to follow COVID safety guidelines including wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and careful hand washing. The current evidence supports that face coverings—whether surgical masks or multi-layered cloth masks—protect both the person wearing them along with those around them. Please do your best not to be a close contact.  A close contact is defined as a person who had been within 6 feet of the COVID+ case for 15 minutes (cumulative over 24 hours) in the preceding 48 hours from the time the person had their positive test. (Note: roommates/housemates are by definition close contacts). It is essential that students stay home if they are experiencing any symptoms (as COVID can present with quite a broad range of symptoms, which may vary widely in severity) or believe they may have been exposed to the virus. If this occurs, do not go to Beckham Hall to be tested, but instead contact Health Services at 860-685-2470 and leave a voicemail. Someone will return your call as soon as possible.

Most students will return home for Thanksgiving recess, beginning Nov. 25, and finish out the semester online. We have planned for an unusually long break between the semesters this year, lasting until early February, for health and safety reasons.

For students preparing to return home, I encourage you, when possible, to limit contact with other people and especially groups before departing campus. Everyone must continue their twice-weekly testing schedule up to the Thanksgiving recess, meaning you should receive a negative COVID test within 72 hours of departing, if possible. If you feel sick, have any symptoms of COVID-19, or believe you may have been exposed to the virus, please contact Health Services at 860-685-2470 before traveling. Once home, you may want to lay low and quarantine for two weeks, and definitely avoid any contact with family members who are at increased risk for complications from COVID.

As we all look forward to the upcoming holidays, I’d like to share with you this helpful holiday gathering preparation guide from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, which offers sound advice to reduce risk associated with holiday celebrations.

Following Thanksgiving, our campus will feel a lot quieter. However, we will continue to provide once weekly testing for any remaining students and employees who continue to work on campus. This will take place on Wednesdays from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Beckham Hall in Fayerweather.

In closing, I’d like to say how thankful I am to our entire community for your tremendous efforts in keeping our campus safe this semester. Be well and enjoy the upcoming break. I will continue to communicate with you regularly.

Tom McLarney, MD