September 4, 2020
Dear Tulane Community:
Earlier today, we launched a dashboard to keep you better informed about the number of COVID-19 cases within our campus community. This dashboard will be updated each weekday and will provide data regarding COVID-19 in our community. It does show an increase in positive COVID-19 cases among our on-campus undergraduate students, which is of concern and is something we are addressing.
Since the end of July, we have completed more than 20,000 tests — far more than any institution in the New Orleans region. Every positive case is a cause for concern, but they are not unexpected. The increase in positive cases, especially the manner in which they have been depicted in the news and on social media, has understandably caused anxiety for some of you. But remember, the detection of positive cases is precisely what our testing and contact tracing program is designed to do. The great majority of those who have tested positive were asymptomatic at the time, or experiencing mild symptoms, and the infections would likely not have been found without our aggressive asymptomatic screening.
Finding positive cases on campus does not mean our positivity rate is any higher than other segments of the city, which are tested far less often. But identifying positive individuals and their close contacts is foundational to protecting our campus and New Orleans community.
To make sure that we are vigilant in protecting all of our community, we are taking additional proactive measures to reduce the spread of the virus. We are elevating our Action Alert level from Yellow to Orange. Among other steps, this means we are:
During this time, and especially with the upcoming Labor Day weekend, it is crucial that we remain vigilant in following all COVID-19 protocols, including wearing face coverings and social distancing – even when inside residential halls – and practicing good hygiene. Students must adhere to limits on gatherings (no more than 15) and restrictions on travel. This does not mean the Labor Day holiday is canceled. In fact, the Office of Student Affairs is planning a number of COVID-safe activities for students over the long upcoming weekend. But it is vital that we come together as a university community in combatting this virus.
For a university such as Tulane, with its deep, relational culture, hands-on learning and research mission, we believe in the importance of the in-person experience. We recognize that following safety protocols, such as masking and social distancing, are not the ideal college experience. Quarantining and isolating are not easy for anyone. We know this because all of the signatories of this letter had to do one or the other early on in this pandemic. Add homesickness, class loads and the disappointment of not being able to lead a normal college life, and the burden of isolating or quarantining can be extra challenging. We all look forward to the time when those in quarantine and isolation rejoin their friends and when, one day, we are all able to take off our masks and be ourselves again.
Until then, all of our actions matter. We are truly in this together and all of us need to do our part in keeping our community as safe as possible.
You will likely have questions about our safety protocols and other measures to limit the spread of COVID-19 in our community. To answer these questions, we will host a webinar at 6 p.m. CDT, September 10, for all students, faculty, staff and parents. Joining us will be Lee Hamm, senior vice president and dean of the School of Medicine; Scott Tims, assistant vice president for Campus Health; Erica Woodley, dean of students; and Shantay Bolton, deputy chief operating officer. Look for an email soon on how to register for this webinar.
Michael A. Fitts, President
Patrick Norton, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer
Robin Forman, Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost