February 17, 2021: Public Health Update

Date: February 17, 2021

From: Tom McLarney, MD

Subject: Public Health Update

To the Wesleyan Community:

We are past the halfway mark for our post-arrival self-quarantine, and we can report that our numbers are very promising. The combination of pre-arrival testing and twice weekly testing on campus, arrival quarantine, and the spot use of rapid antigen tests is working. The most important factor is compliance by Wesleyan students. You have risen to the occasion. Thank you!

In light of these reassuring numbers, we have been able to relax some quarantine restrictions a bit for the second week. For more information, please review the latest updates from the February 15th Arrival Quarantine Update email.

The Broad Institute has a new test result designation of “Inconclusive” in addition to its Negative, Positive, TNP (Test Not Performed) and Invalid categories. The test previously used a single probe but now uses two probes for the virus. If neither probe detects the virus, the result is negative. If both probes detect the virus, the result is positive. If only one probe detects the virus, the result is inconclusive, which indicates the presence of a small amount of virus. This situation may arise if we are catching the illness very early or seeing its resolution.

The University’s approach to inconclusive results will be similar to that of other NESCAC and Connecticut schools. Any person with an inconclusive result will be placed in isolation and close contacts will be placed in quarantine. The individual will be retested after 48 hours. If the test is negative, the individual will be released and if positive, will continue in isolation per the CDC’s current guidelines. A repeat inconclusive will be treated as a positive. This procedure will add an additional level of safety to our testing and contact tracing program.

The CDC continues to study the effectiveness of masks and recently updated its recommendations including adding layers of materials— a double mask. A study reported in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly from the CDC found that wearing a cloth face cover over a paper surgical mask offers better protection than a single mask.

As a reminder, the Pandemic Committee is monitoring Connecticut’s vaccine rollout and will keep the Wesleyan community informed as more information becomes available. The state has posted an approximate timeline for the vaccine rollout, which indicates that professors, frontline essential workers and individuals with an underlying medical condition causing increased risk for severe illness will be in the next group to be vaccinated, likely in March. Most promising, the supply of vaccines is increasing.

We are not granting requests to leave the state, even if one has hopes for a vaccine. Travel would increase the risk of campus COVID infections, especially considering the spread of highly contagious, mutant strains of the SARS CoV- virus. Our students do not currently meet state vaccine eligibility, but when they do, we will facilitate the process as best we can. Meanwhile, we ask everyone to be patient and continue to adhere to all the guidelines.

Stay well and be safe,

Tom McLarney, MD