COVID Week 1 Update: We Survived

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Social distancing sign in Yates-Gill Union. Photo by Catherine Dema

William Jewell College started its first week of school Aug. 26 with mostly in-person classes for the fall semester. Prior to starting school, the College administered mandatory COVID-19 tests for all employees and student-athletes, while remaining students could opt for voluntary testing. 

According to the Jewell Coronavirus Response page, during the time frame of Aug. 22 to Sept. 6, there were 817 total COVID-19 tests administered to Jewell students and staff. Out of these tests, there were 11 student positives and 1 employee positive. This translates to a 1.3 percent positivity rate. Currently, the rate of positive cases on campus is zero. 

The COVID-19 policies to be followed on-campus were published in a July 31 guide by Jewell’s Operational Planning Team. These policies include socially distanced classrooms, mandatory facial coverings and added barriers in common areas. 

Joseph Garcia, vice president of operations and finance, said that Jewell’s low positivity rate is evidence of compliance with COVID-19 protocols. 

“Our Operation Safe Campus procedures have been mostly followed for which we are grateful.  Compared to other schools we are doing well,” Garcia said. “One measurement is the relatively low # (number) of positive cases that we’ve had so far, about a 1 percent positivity rate. That doesn’t just happen. It takes students, faculty, and staff doing the basics like wearing masks and social distancing, monitoring symptoms, etc and being personally accountable for the greater good.”

Similarly, Ernie Stufflebean, director of residence life, said that he has received positive feedback about how well the COVID-19 procedures are being followed in residence halls.

“Based on feedback from RA’s, RD’s and House Managers, it seems that residential students are doing a good job of following the College’s Operation Safe Campus plan,” Stufflebean said. “Staff are trained to educate residential students about the plan and to remind them of the guidelines if a resident is operating outside of the plan.” 

COVID-19 procedures for residence halls include maintaining social distancing and appropriate hygiene measures, as well as the exclusion of non-resident guests from residence halls. The specific protocols for residence halls can be found on the “Campus Resident Resource” page on Moodle.

“We received specific feedback on some of our quarantine actions that we’ve modified as a result,” said Garcia regarding whether any changes to COVID protocols will be made. 

These modifications include organizing ways for students to receive food without coming into contact with others and setting up an outdoor area for students quarantining to safely get fresh air. Browning Hall is the dedicated space on-campus for students to isolate or quarantine should the need arise.

Though Jewell is currently reporting zero active COVID-19 cases, this should not lead students and staff into complacency or a false sense of security. 

“While there may be no current cases on campus, we must continue to follow our Operation Safe Campus plan and take all necessary precautions to mitigate the spread of COVID-19,” Stufflebean said. “I think communicating the on-going status is important for a number of reasons, but we cannot become complacent when there are no active cases on campus. As we’ve seen, this can quickly change with just one positive case.”

Garcia points to continued testing as a safety measure necessary to contain the threat on-campus.

“There will be ongoing testing of students that will provide us a feedback loop on our procedures,” Garcia said. “Our student athletes are tested to follow NCAA guidelines for example. We are testing those that are about to end their quarantine period to add another layer of precaution. Regardless of these test results, we should not get complacent as we are fighting a formidable foe with the coronavirus. We’ve seen what can quickly happen at other colleges and universities.”

Jewell’s COVID-19 protocols, threat level, and campus updates can be found on the William Jewell Coronavirus response page. Additionally, The Hilltop Monitor publishes live updates about COVID-19 on-campus in a realtime blog.

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