Weekly Update

March 5, 2021

Dear Members of the Holy Cross Community,

As Fr. Boroughs noted in the email you just received, this has been a challenging time for everyone. As we begin our second month on campus, we have much to be proud of in how the community has worked together and sacrificed to make this semester a success. We have seen strong testing compliance, and classes and campus operations have adapted to our new reality. Please know that we understand how much work and effort have been put in by all members of our community.

I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that our goal is to keep our community together and on campus for the semester. All of our protocols are designed and implemented with this, and the health and safety of the college and local community, in mind. I want to start off our weekly update this week with an honest and clear-eyed assessment of where we are now and where we could be headed.

Over the past seven days we have started to see a concerning trend. We have had:

  1. 18 new positive cases
  2. 100 students who have gone in quarantine because they were deemed close contacts.

We remain in YELLOW alert level status for now, but we are very close to having to move to the ORANGE alert level. We meet with our medical advisor almost daily and we are watching this trend and the data closely.

One particularly concerning trend we are seeing is an uptick in the number of close contacts identified for each positive case. Ideally, for students, this number would be no greater than the number of roommates. For employees, this number should be zero other community members.

Our quarantine and isolation spaces fill quickly when there are high numbers of close contacts and we can go from having space to not having space very quickly. We have seen the rooms fill up over the past week and the trend will not be sustainable. At the rate we are going with the increasing numbers of close contacts, we could exhaust our quarantine capacity, which would necessitate a shutdown. We need your help in keeping the number of close contacts down.

I realize there are mixed messages out there -- the numbers of cases broadly across the U.S. and here in Massachusetts continue to drop. States, including Massachusetts, are beginning to relax their guidelines. Vaccines are being rolled out as we speak. It’s easy to get a false sense of security - and we are all tired of having to live like this. But, unfortunately, this is not the time to let our guards down and relax.

At this risk of endless repetition, I remind you: Please wear your mask. Please don’t gather in groups. Please don’t ride together in cars. Don’t let your guard down because you’re with your close friends. We can stay together, if we all work together.

Please see below for our Weekly Metrics and some other updates.

Sincerely,
David Shettler
Director of COVID Response Operations

WEEKLY METRICS

Total New Positive Cases:18 (trending unfavorably up)
7-Day Positivity Rate: 0.24% (trending unfavorably up)
Isolation and Quarantine Capacity: 60% available (trending unfavorably down)

As always, more information is available on our dashboard. Note that the dashboard metrics do not include tests conducted outside of our campus testing program. The dashboard is updated periodically throughout the day, and is not real time.

ATHLETICS UPDATES

We are being hyper vigilant and cautious with students involved in group activities, particularly athletics. Over the past week, you may have seen several athletics teams pausing their activities because of positive cases within their programs. We want to be clear about what it means when that happens, and how we will keep the community updated going forward.

A pause in competition does not necessarily mean that there are a large number of cases on a team. Because of the group nature of athletics, we are being extra cautious and putting people into quarantine when warranted. These are the same actions we take whenever there could be potential of a cluster - as we did recently with students in Brooks Hall.

In previous cases, we have emailed the entire campus to communicate these pauses. We’re going to change that practice going forward. When we pause, we will publicly announce ongoholycross.com as officials, other teams and others need to be informed of game cancellations. And as always, if a community member is impacted by a positive case, they will be notified through our contact tracing process.

VACCINE VOLUNTEERS

There is a state-wide need for medical and non-medical volunteers at vaccination clinics throughout the state. There are several ways to volunteer: through the MA Responds Program, or through the UMass Medical Volunteer Corps. You will have to complete a background check to be approved.

Please note that people who volunteer at vaccination sites are considered Phase 1 employees and are currently eligible to receive a vaccine.