Important Update on COVID-19 Global Health Pandemic at Radford University (Message from President Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D. to Main Campus Faculty and Staff)
Dear Faculty and Staff:
As a University, we have welcomed our students back to campus and are engaging with them in the classroom and the laboratory. Despite the challenging environment, we are providing critical services and needed support as our students are both learning and living on our campus and in our community. And, in an effort to ensure consistent communication and clear expectations, I am reaching out with an important update on how we can continue to move forward with our in-person engagement in a safe manner.
On behalf of the Radford family, I want to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation for everything you are doing. It does not go unnoticed as we are very aware that many of you have taken on additional duties due to the impact and response of the COVID-19 global health pandemic. Without question, our reopening was a significant undertaking as the pandemic continues to impact all facets of our lives and our society.
Since our reopening, I have been encouraged by the many students, faculty, and staff wearing face coverings, while on campus. However, in order for our individual and collective efforts to be successful, every member of our campus community must be diligent in wearing face coverings, as well as exercising physical distancing and frequently washing their hands, in all settings. Face coverings are even more important when physical distancing of six feet or more is not possible whether you are inside or outside.
It is very important to note that, if you wear a face covering and maintain physical distancing, your risk for COVID-19 is very minimal even if you come into contact with someone who is positive or presumed positive, whether they are symptomatic or asymptomatic. Again, in the event you come into contact with an individual who has COVID-19, these measures will prevent you from being deemed a close contact by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) standards. Close contact is defined as being unmasked within less than six feet for more than 15 minutes.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The primary transmission of COVID-19 is from person-to-person through respiratory droplets. These droplets are released when someone with COVID-19 sneezes or coughs. COVID-19 can also be spread when you are in close contact with someone who is sick (e.g., shaking hands or talking).” Again, wearing a face covering and maintaining physical distancing when interacting with others are your best defense.
TESTING: If you interact with a student who is needing or wanting to be tested, please refer them to the Student Health Center, which is conducting testing for symptomatic individuals and close contacts. Before visiting the Student Health Center, students should call 540-831-5111. Please note that the University is working with Carilion Clinic in order to offer weekend hours. In addition to the Student Health Center, additional testing is available in the local area and across the Commonwealth of Virginia. VDH has an online database of testing sites, which are organized by region, and provides an option to input a zip code and search for free testing. Additional information is available at https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/coronavirus/covid-19-testing/covid-19-testing-sites.
REPORTING: Any and all positive cases at Radford University, through campus-based testing or private testing providers in the area, are reported to the VDH and included in state and local totals. If students are taking online classes and not living in the local area, their tests and results would be reported in their home areas.
ISOLATION AND QUARANTINE: Individuals who test positive are required to isolate for 10 days. Individuals who are a close contact are required to quarantine for 14 days. The Division of Student Affairs is working closely with students in isolation or quarantine status. The Dean of Students Office is automatically providing absentee notifications for students testing at the Student Health Center and/or living in residence halls. If students test at a private provider and do not live in a residence hall, they will need to contact the Dean of Students Office to provide information regarding their status, such as isolation or quarantine, which will result in the distribution of absentee notifications. If students have attended in-person classes, the appropriate faculty members will be contacted by a member of the COVID-19 Working Group in order to provide general information and respond to specific questions. For additional information about isolation and quarantine, please visit https://www.vdh.virginia.gov/content/uploads/sites/182/2020/04/Home-IsolationQuarantine-Release-Graphic_FINAL.pdf.
SYMPTOM TRACKER: Remember to complete the Daily Symptom Tracking for COVID-19 Screening on a consistent basis and use it as a journal to monitor your health and any changes. Initially, the screening was required for students and recommended for employees; however, it has now become necessary as new standards from the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry require it for all employees in order to ensure the University’s compliance with state mandates. For any days that you will be on campus, you must complete the screening. In order for the screening to be accurate and effective, you must fully read and properly respond to all of the questions. If you receive a yellow or red status, you will receive direct contact from a member of our response team to walk you through your individual situation. You may also be encouraged to contact the VDH’s New River Health District at (540) 267-8240 as the University can only provide general guidance not medical advice.
COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT: We must be very diligent in our compliance and enforcement efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19 on campus and in the community. Currently, Radford University has a limit of 50 individuals for indoor and outdoor gatherings. Exemptions are being provided on a very limited basis for instructional purposes and select activities. Please know that we are continuing to closely monitor gatherings and are planning to make a campus announcement later this week regarding a more restrictive limit for both indoor and outdoor events. Additionally, the University is monitoring on-campus and off-campus conduct and will take appropriate action. Please note that such action has already occurred and will continue to occur if necessary. Without question, we are serious about compliance and enforcement to ensure the health, safety, and well-being of the entire Radford family.
As we reopened the University, we knew that we would have COVID-19 cases. We are adequately prepared to respond to these cases and meet the needs of those impacted. Additionally, we have been in constant communication with VDH officials and are following their provided guidance regarding overall approach and specific situations. Our strong partnership with VDH has been instrumental in our response efforts and will continue to be critical moving forward. New River Health District Director Noelle Bissell, M.D. shared the following regarding VDH’s in-depth work with Radford University. “We are seeing what we expected both on campus and in the community. We are seeing COVID-19 spread where there is close and personal contact. If people are diligent in their behaviors, we will see less cases. Practicing positive behaviors, like wearing face covers, distancing from others, and washing hands regularly, are effective and will limit the spread of COVID-19.”
As several universities across the nation have reopened only to quickly move to an online-only environment, I want to be very clear that COVID-19 is real. The consequences for ignoring state mandates and best practices are real. Look no further than what is happening at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame. We will continue to provide timely information and personal outreach as we navigate the Fall 2020 semester and beyond.
Please know that we are committed to open dialogue and full engagement in working through the many issues you may face in your classrooms and offices. Despite continued misinformation from unauthorized and uninformed sources, Radford University has repeatedly pledged to provide an in-person experience in a safe environment, but can only do so if everyone commits to doing the right thing. Highlanders, now, it is our time to lead by example!
With Highlander Pride,
Brian O. Hemphill, Ph.D.