April 15, 2022
Dear students, faculty, and staff,
This week, we write to you in preparation for another potential surge of COVID-19 activity, both on campus and in the community beyond.
Though it may be a few weeks until this increase in activity is noticeable in county and state-level data, the BA.2 variant is making a strong case for itself as the next surge-causing strain of COVID-19. Here at Reed, we are already seeing the impact of this highly contagious (though, preliminarily, less severe) variant--since our last report, we have identified 22 new COVID-19 cases among Reed community members, and have notified nearly 100 community members of potential close contact to someone contagious with COVID-19 during that time.
This is not the first or last COVID-19 surge we will face. While Reed's high vaccination rate (including boosters) provides many of us with a strong level of protection against severe illness and hospitalization, we ask all community members to reflect on the individual steps we can take to further prevent the spread of COVID on campus.
- Mask use: Consistent mask use has been shown to drastically reduce the risk of COVID infection, in some cases by up to and over 80%. The college has recently ordered additional supplies of KN95 masks to supplement those available now, set to arrive this Tuesday. KN95 masks can be picked up at the mailroom service window, while surgical masks are available at various locations throughout campus, including the Health and Counseling Center, Facilities Services, and 28 West.
- Safe gatherings: Keeping COVID in mind when planning for or attending an event protects you and the community as a whole. Opt to hold gatherings and events outdoors when possible, and ask participants to stay home if they are sick or have had a recent COVID exposure. Encourage attendees to wear masks (even if it's not required by the venue), and minimize activities that require participants to remove their masks, particularly with gatherings in indoor or poorly ventilated spaces.
- Flexibility in our classrooms and offices: While we have not confirmed any instances of transmission in a classroom setting, all community members have felt the impact of high COVID activity with increased absences due to illness, isolation, and quarantine. As we approach a busy and important time in the semester, students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to remain flexible in their operations, collaborating on alternatives where possible to ensure individuals can take the necessary steps to prevent illness in themselves and others. Due to the nature and diversity of Reed's courses and operations, these alternatives may look different from class to class and office to office. Dean of the Faculty Kathy Oleson will write with more guidance to faculty in the coming days.
- Individual responsibility: If you are sick, stay home. In many individuals (particularly those who are vaccinated and boosted), BA.2 can present as a mild illness, with symptoms mirroring those of a head cold or seasonal allergies (including sore throat, cough, and congestion). Further, many home tests can be unreliable in detecting COVID-19 in individuals with mild or no symptoms; if you develop symptoms, please contact your healthcare provider for evaluation and testing.
It is also valuable to participate in on campus surveillance testing, particularly if you may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19. In response to the latest surge in COVID activity, surveillance testing will be available next week on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday (April 18, 19, and 21) from 8:30 AM to 3:00 PM in Greenwood. Individuals may also participate in testing using one of the two satellite testing sites on campus, available in the Student Union and the Biology building.
If you have questions, please don't hesitate to reach out to the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Reporting on behalf of the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group
Gary Granger, Director of Community Safety
Mandy Heaton, Executive Director of Communications & Public Affairs
Karnell McConnell-Black, Vice President for Student Life
Kathy Oleson, Dean of the Faculty & Professor of Psychology
Tawana Parks, Dean of Students
Hugh Porter, Vice President for College Relations & Planning
Madison Riethman, COVID-19 Response Coordinator & Health Project Manager
Suzy Renn, Professor of Biology
Timmie Rochon, Medical Services Director
April Sams, Director of Risk Management & Environmental Health and Safety
Lynn Valenter, Vice President of Finance and Treasurer
PS: Our COVID-19 dashboard includes current information on the total number of cases, vaccination rate, and other public health indicators. Additionally, all our COVID-19 communications are cataloged here.