September 3, 2020
As we promised when we began our conversations about this semester several months ago, we are evolving and improving our plans as we gain addition information and experience. However, in such a challenging and chaotic time, change can often lead to confusion and miscommunication. I am writing today to share some updates and dispel some of the incorrect rumors we are hearing.
Last week, we made an important improvement to our quarantine and isolation protocols. Previously, Paterson was serving both as isolation space for students who had tested positive and as quarantine space for their close contacts. They were housed on separate floors and we believe that this arrangement kept everyone safe. However, we understand that some close contacts did not feel safe sharing the facility with positive cases, a feeling shared by their parents, so we have added new space and changed our protocol. Starting last Wednesday, students who were identified as being a close contact with someone who tested positive were sent to quarantine at the Hyatt Regency. This move also gave us more space to allow for better social distancing, both in the Hyatt Regency and in Paterson Hall. Contrary to the rumors, however, Paterson is not full. The numbers of students in Paterson changes daily, but it is currently not at capacity. Should Paterson reach capacity, we have alternative spaces identified for overflow.
For our students quarantining at the Hyatt Regency, there are several important points to remember:
Students are not required to quarantine or isolate in a Tulane provided space, but they may not quarantine or isolate in their rooms, even if they live alone. And no matter where they choose to stay, they are required to follow the directives of the contact tracer.
For those of you who have students who are in isolation (positive cases) or quarantine (close contacts), we understand that this can be a stressful time. We are continually exploring ways to improve the students’ experience and support their progress while remaining committed to their health and safety and that of our larger community. For example, we have created opportunities for these students to engage with us, and we have connected them to some virtual activities that they can participate in while in quarantine or isolation. As always, any student who needs further support should contact their case manager. If your student doesn’t have a case manager they should request one here or through the Counseling Center.
Perhaps the most common misconceptions relate to our testing protocol. We are doing aggressive screening of asymptomatic faculty, staff and students, and have set up multiple testing centers — both uptown and downtown — to carry out this work. Testing in these sites is by appointment only and these centers are often fully booked. This has led some to believe that they can only get tested when they are scheduled to be tested as part of our regular screening. This is not true. Students who exhibit symptoms, should contact the Student Health Center for a consultation with a health professional. Information about the various avenues for being tested can be found here. We discourage students from getting tested off campus regardless of their circumstances. If your student does choose to test off campus, and receives a positive test result, they must complete the COVID-19 Reporting Form. This is the entry into our tracing system, connects them to support services and allows us to include them in our statistics so that we have the most accurate data about what is happening on our campus.
As our experience testing for COVID-19 grows, we have been able to streamline our process and increase our capacity. As you may have read yesterday in the update from Campus Health, we are increasing the testing of our on-campus undergraduate students to twice weekly. Since our on-campus students live in the settings with the greatest density, increasing our testing there is the most effective way to reduce transmission of the virus and make everyone safer. This increased testing, followed by isolating the students who test positive and quarantining those who are close contacts of those positive cases, will greatly aid our effort to get ahead — and stay ahead — of this virus.
To be clear, we have seen an increase in the number of positive cases since our students arrived, as every university has. As concerning as that is, it is not unexpected. The university’s COVID-19 Response Team meets daily – at least – and reviews the latest developments and adjusts our plans accordingly, including allocating additional resources to residence halls and other spaces where we are seeing cases, and increasing the cleaning of the communal spaces. Many of you have reached out with questions about the availability of our data and misrepresentations of those numbers by some on social media. We know transparency is key in keeping your trust, so our intention is to present our numbers in the most straight forward and easy-to-read manner possible. We will begin sharing daily testing data on an online dashboard by the end of this week. Every student, faculty and staff member — both asymptomatic and symptomatic — who tests through Tulane, as well as those who inform us of results from testing outside our system, is included in the data we will be sharing. Since we must rely on students informing us about outside tests, we are limited in how we can report on non-Tulane tests. This is why we strongly encourage students to only use the Tulane testing options.
It is critical that our students remain vigilant. My colleagues across campus and friends in New Orleans have commented on how committed our students have been to our COVID-19 protocols. A great majority have been compliant and conscientious. We need them to continue to be good stewards of our community and representatives of Tulane, and to adhere to our residence hall visitation policy, wear face coverings, avoid large gatherings and socially distance. We know this is not easy, and it may not feel natural, but we are at a critical time. As we get into the swing of things, there may be a tendency to be less conscientious about these behaviors. We cannot let this happen. Please remind your students how important this is.
We are doing everything we can to ensure that this is as rewarding and engaging as a typical semester, but it will remain quite different from the usual "college experience." This may not work for everyone. We know that some students either cannot or choose not to complete their semester in residence under these extraordinary circumstances. It is likely that not every class they are registered in will be available as a fully online option, so if your student does not feel that they can remain in residence or attend class in person this semester, have them contact their advisor as soon as possible to understand their options. And remember that Friday is the last day to add new classes, or to withdraw from the university with a 100 percent tuition refund.
I know this semester has been difficult for many of you. It must be difficult to be so far away from your student with so much uncertainty in the world. Thank you for your patience with and trust in us. We are doing everything we can to provide a high quality and safe on-campus, in-person experience for your student.
Dean of Students