Latest Town Hall: CC won’t test students upon return, but symptomatic testing will be free on campus

Plus, what service academies are planning as students return to campus

Good morning, and happy Friday. On this pre-pandemic date in 2009, Colorado College announced a 14-week “aCClimate14” conservation campaign had saved the college almost $100,000 in utility costs and reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 378 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent. (We have to wonder how much is being saved with the campus on a pandemic-induced low-power mode.) 

Today, we recap Colorado College’s Town Hall on Safety and Testing. And then we take a look at what U.S. service academies are saying about students returning to campus.

📬In your inbox: Director of Alumni and Family Relations Tiffany Williamson Kelly informed the CC community yesterday that Homecoming Weekend 2020 is postponed and will be a joint event in 2021 instead. All Family and Friends Weekend programming will be virtual. 

➡️ICYMI: Yesterday, we spoke to a CC alumna who is part of a CSU research team working on a possible COVID-19 vaccine, and we recapped the Town Hall on Classes and Academics.

Town Hall on Safety and Testing: Free testing, daily symptom screenings, and a new Campus Scientific Advisory Group 

Yesterday, Colorado College hosted a Town Hall on Safety and Testing, moderated by Heather Horton, Wellness Resource Center Director and chair of the “Testing, Treatment, and Response” Work Team; and Brian Young, Vice President for Information Technology and chair of the “Prevention” Work Team. 

If you couldn’t attend, here are some highlights:

  • SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY GROUP: The college has put together a Campus Scientific Advisory Group to help advise decisions based on local and national data. The group includes Phoebe Lostroh, this newsletter’s resident molecular microbiologist; Miro Kummel, population ecologist and associate professor of environmental sciences; and Andrea Bruder, Associate Dean of Faculty and associate professor of math and computer science.

  • TESTING: Colorado College will not be testing everyone upon their return to campus, citing guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Tests for symptomatic individuals, however, will be free and available on campus. Administrators are exploring multiple options for additional testing including random or pooling tests. A plan for notifying the community about positive test results is pending, but Horton expects it will be similar to the process in the spring — which included a March 30 email informing the community a “campus community member” had tested positive for COVID-19 and went on to give some details about when the person had last been on campus. “We’ll probably have a variety of ways for sharing that information, just as we do for other timely notifications on campus,” Horton said. This could include emails, texts, and/or updates on the website. 

  • CONTACT TRACING: The college has identified a CC staff member who will serve as the lead contact tracer for a team of 15-20 people on campus trained in contact tracing through El Paso County Public Health and an online course by Johns Hopkins University.

  • GUIDELINES: Before coming to campus, the college will ask the CC community to limit travel as much as possible in the two weeks prior to their return and ask everyone to complete an educational module with information about COVID-19, prevention and protection strategies, and community expectations. On campus, the CC community is expected to maintain social distancing, wear masks, and wash their hands frequently. The college will be “stepping up” cleaning and sanitation efforts through Sodexo and will take steps to monitor and reduce on-campus density, such as socially distant classrooms. In a Zoom chat, Director of Solutions Services Tulio Wolford wrote that the college is working on protocols for how to enforce these safety guidelines.

  • SCREENINGS: The college will also implement daily symptom screenings through an app, and will have both touchless temperature-screening stations and manned temperature-screening stations in locations across campus.

  • SUPPLIES: “I’m pleased to be able to say that CC got some early jumps on some of the supply chains,” Young said. In addition to having hand sanitizer stations around campus, Wolford wrote that students will receive packages with supplies including masks, disinfectants, and gloves. However, the college still recommends students also bring their own masks.

  • QUARANTINE: The college has identified spaces on and near campus for use if students need to be isolated or quarantined. While in isolation or quarantine, contact tracers will check on students’ symptoms, medical needs, mental health status, and academic needs daily. Students will also receive food deliveries. Administrators are communicating with local health officials to determine if family members may visit someone who is confirmed to have COVID-19. 

  • COHORTS: Horton said she thinks the college might be able to conduct contact tracing more quickly than in the broader community because the college will be “doing things like placing students into cohorts.” For example, everyone on campus might identify the 10 people they spend the most time with and limit contact with anyone outside of that circle. Then if someone tests positive for COVID-19, the college would be able to more quickly identify and reach out to people who might have been exposed.

  • THRESHOLDS: The college has not declared a threshold for closing campus because of a significant number of COVID-19 cases, but Horton said the college would make a decision in consultation with El Paso County Public Health officials. “If you have widespread community spread, which means that you don't know where people got it, … then that’s called for increasing the level of restriction on folks,” Horton said. 

    Reporting For Duty: Students return to service academies

    The United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs began to welcome its incoming class of 2024 on June 25. Now, it’s facing a coronavirus outbreak among the new cadets. Though the exact number isn’t known, The Colorado Springs Independent reports it’s probably somewhere around 100 cadets, though spokespeople for the academy say the numbers are “far lower.”

    Air Force is only about 9 miles from CC’s campus, but they are different worlds. We looked at what the federal academies training the next crop of military personnel are saying as they reckon with the challenge of resuming operations.

    United States Military Academy at West Point plans to welcome the class of 2024 for basic training with a staggered reception July 12-14. West Point will test all new cadets for COVID-19 upon arrival and give them face coverings, gloves, and individual hand sanitizers. West Point currently follows state guidelines that arrivals from certain states must first quarantine for two weeks. Earlier in the pandemic, West Point screened temperatures at the gates to try to identify potential cases, but have since switched to only taking the temperatures of individuals with other symptoms because of “faulty readings.” 

    United States Naval Academy in Maryland inducted the Class of 2024 over a four-day period starting June 29 and didn’t allow guests. The Class of 2020 returned to campus in May for private, in-person, swearing-in ceremonies and heard prerecorded remarks from senior officials at a virtual ceremony. Family members and other guests were not allowed to attend. 

    Additional COVID-19 protocols

    • Bring a cloth face mask and wear it at all times while on the campus.

    • Expect to have your temperature taken when you arrive. If your temperature is under 100 degrees, you will receive a wristband and have access to federal buildings. 

    United States Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs began Basic Cadet Training June 25 for more than 1,100 incoming cadets. The academy tested everyone for COVID-19 upon arrival, then held online training for two weeks. Air Force has since confirmed positive COVID-19 cases among the new cadets, but will not release the exact numbers. The academy recently began its “Phase II-a reopening status,” which includes reopening establishments such as the golf course and base gym. Other COVID-19 guidelines listed on its FAQ page:

    • The academy temporarily closed to visitors on March 13.

    • Social distancing and masks or cloth face coverings are required.

    • Cadets should only leave base to pick up take-out meals. Otherwise, “all cadets receive their meals in carry-out containers from employees wearing personal protection.”

    • “If an employee falls into a high-risk category per CDC guidelines, can they be forced to come on base to work?” The short answer: yes.

    United States Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut intends to test all returning cadets, all Leadership Development Center and Officer Candidate School members, and all student-facing staff and faculty when they return to campus. Academy officials are working with Coast Guard headquarters to finalize testing plans. In an FAQ document linked to the website, the academy outlined protocols for cleaning and disinfecting restrooms, high-touch surfaces including doorknobs and light switches, and classrooms daily. They also have procedures in place to set up quarantine and isolation wards in a guest housing facility on campus. 

    United States Merchant Marine Academy in New York is planning to hold indoctrination for the Class of 2024 on July 10. In June, members of the Class of 2023 completed preparations for their Sea Year in person — a 135-day period aboard a U.S. merchant fleet vessel during sophomore year and a 265-day period aboard a vessel relating to their specific career interest during junior year. The academy says it’s “regularly” testing the midshipmen on campus. 

    About the CC COVID-19 Reporting Project

    The CC COVID-19 Reporting Project is a student-faculty collaboration by Colorado College student journalists Miriam Brown and Arielle Gordon, Journalism Institute Director Steven Hayward, Visiting Assistant Professor of Journalism Corey Hutchins, and Assistant Professor of English Najnin Islam. Work by Phoebe Lostroh, Associate Professor of Molecular Biology at CC and National Science Foundation Program Director in Genetic Mechanisms, Molecular and Cellular Biosciences, will appear from time to time, as will infographics by Colorado College students Rana Abdu, Aleesa Chua, Sara Dixon, Jia Mei, and Lindsey Smith.

    The project seeks to provide frequent updates about CC and other higher education institutions during the pandemic by providing original reporting, analysis, interviews with campus leaders, and context about what state and national headlines mean for the CC community. 

    📬 Enter your email address to subscribe and get the newsletter in your inbox each time it comes out. You can reach us with questions, feedback, or news tips by emailing ccreportingproject@gmail.com.