COVID-19 Update: Isolation & Quarantine Housing, Weekly Asymptomatic Surveillance Testing, Pause on Events
January 14, 2022
To Saint Louis University community members:
Welcome back to campus. We continue to prepare extensively for what is likely to be a bumpy first few weeks of our spring semester, given the continued rise of Omicron variant infections in the St. Louis area.
But working together, we can get over these bumps.
We have a lot of logistical issues to cover with you, so please be patient.
Isolation and quarantine housing is available, but may be limited
As we have shared in recent messages, we are expecting a potentially large increase in COVID-19 cases when students return to campus this weekend, largely due to the highly transmissible Omicron variant.
With that in mind, our isolation and quarantine housing team explored a series of options. While none are perfect, we continue to operate guided by our mission and student well-being as our priority.
Here are some key things you should know about our plans:
- We strongly encourage COVID-19-positive students who live on campus to isolate at home if they live within 250 miles of SLU and if they are able to do so safely. (Contact tracers and the housing team will work with students to understand what’s possible.)
- We continue to use Hotel Ignacio for COVID-19-related housing needs, but we have also temporarily contracted with the Pear Tree Inn, located a few minutes from our north campus, for residential students who cannot isolate at home.
These are short-term solutions intended only to get us through an anticipated early surge of infections caused by the Omicron variant. If the surge lasts longer than a few weeks or if a large number of residential students require campus-provided isolation housing, we will need to pivot to another isolation and quarantine strategy, such as isolating in place.
We will keep you informed along the way as we work through all of our options.
Weekly asymptomatic surveillance testing for on-campus residential students
Starting the second week of classes (Jan. 24), we will begin testing a random sample of 10% of our on-campus students every week. We have not done this type of testing since last spring 2021. We are starting this now because we want to monitor infection rates among our residential students living in a congregate setting.
The plan is to conduct this weekly random sample surveillance testing for the first three weeks of the semester. The data will be analyzed and then a decision will be made about continuing, changing, or ending that testing.
In addition, we also will test select clusters or groups identified by our contact tracing team as having a high potential for risk. Individuals tested in this group could include both on-campus and off-campus residents, as well as staff or faculty members who may be associated with the group. For example, if contact tracers detected concerns about a larger group, we could choose to test all students and faculty in a given research lab, the entire floor of a residence hall, an entire student athletics team, or an entire student organization. This testing approach has been very successful for us in the past.
Additionally, we will test all relevant athletes and athletic staff as per NCAA rules and Saint Louis City Health Department requirements.
A temporary stop on internal and external events
We previously shared a temporary pause on internal and external events. We know our students are eager to get back to normal with the types of events that bring you together to celebrate and learn outside of the classroom. The University’s goal has been and will continue to be a return to an open campus, with regular operations, as quickly as it is safe to do so.
As of right now, here is our plan:
- We are canceling all internal events from now until Jan. 31.
- That’s a shorter timeline than I shared in my previous email with you. This pause gives our student services staff time to work through any potential surge in COVID-19 cases.
- We are canceling all external events from now until March 1.
- We recognize that some in-person events are necessary to fulfill our mission and academic enterprise. Select events which are deemed “mission central” may be approved by the Designated Events Review (DER) Committee.
- Our team is working hard to get you updated guidance for events that highlights these details and more, with the help of extensive student input. Stay tuned for more information.
In-person meetings are still OK!
While infection rates remain high, we encourage you to take your meetings online whenever possible, but this is not a requirement. There is no cap on how many people can attend your meeting — just be sure to exercise good judgment and keep your face mask on for indoor meetings.
When feasible, in-person meetings should not involve food and beverages to eliminate opportunities for unmasked exposure time. Taking a quick sip of a beverage at a meeting is fine, but your face mask must then be returned to its proper position on your face.
Availability of surgical face masks
We will have some surgical masks available on campus this spring. Housing and Residence Life staff will distribute those to students in packs of five, for those who wish to use them. We also will make some available to faculty and staff. Keep in touch with your unit’s business manager for more information.
In clinical settings, please follow the mask/respirator policy at your clinical site.
Other public health reminders/measures
- Mask up: Time spent unmasked around others increases your risk of infection. For many students, this means meal times. We know that meals are important times for students to socialize, and we want you to be with your friends and build community. We just ask that you limit the amount of time you spend unmasked during meals. Remove your mask to eat, of course, but then put it back on. We want you to socialize and have fun, but do so safely.
- Library: For the time being, access to Pius XII Memorial Library will remain by key card. No non-SLU persons will be permitted in the Pius Library without the escort of a SLU community member.
- Travel policy: Our interim travel policy is being revised. Students, staff and faculty who wish to pursue University-sponsored travel are to obtain approval from their Academic Dean, Clinical Chair or VP.
- Daily health screenings: It is critical to monitor your health daily and report any and all symptoms to Student Health (314-977-2323) or Employee Health (314-257-8400) as soon as possible. If you feel ill, we expect you to be tested before coming back to campus.
For 23 months we have shown an incredible commitment to OneSLU and kept our campus safe and open. We can make it through this semester by being kind, considerate and supportive of one another.
As always, our plans remain flexible as we learn more about this evolving situation.
If you have any questions, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay safe and be well,
Terri Rebmann, Ph.D., RN, CIC, FAPIC
Special Assistant to the President
Director, Institute for Biosecurity
Professor, Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics
College for Public Health and Social Justice