Life at HC in the midst of the virus

As students take classes in person, Hastings College is maintaining a set list of protocols and guidelines for the community. Each week, an email is sent out by Brady Rhodes, HC COVID-19 case manager, with the current statistics of confirmed, active and isolated cases. As of Sept. 16, there were 10 “individuals in isolation waiting for test results or symptom abatement.”  When students are quarantined, it means they were near someone who is ill or tested positive for COVID-19. When students are in isolation, it means that they are currently sick. Since July 1 and as of Sept. 16, there have been 13 positive cases and 27 negative cases, with all positive cases recovered.

Mandates on campus this fall include the heavy use of sanitation, face coverings and social distancing. Since block one started, HC has been at the “orange” level on the matrix, which encourages the limitation of in-person meetings and unnecessary travel. Classes must meet in-person at least two days a week, but can have some extra online components. Groups must meet at 25%  capacity and with a total of 25 or less. 

At the beginning of the year, all students, faculty and staff were provided with one reusable mask. Face coverings are expected on campus and required when indoors, during college-sponsored programs off-campus and while using college transportation. Students must sit in the same desk — spaced six feet apart — for the duration of their classes. At the end of each class session, desks are sprayed and wiped clean.

In an email sent out to campus on Sept. 16 about student handbook revisions, on-campus residents are limited to only one other on-campus guest each in their residential area. Students cannot have overnight guests or guests that don’t  live on campus. This means that a two-person dorm could have up to four people in a room, while a four-person apartment could have up to eight people. A six-foot distance should be maintained while guests are present or else face coverings should be used. 

In addition to these mitigation efforts, athletic teams have separated practices and workouts as much as possible. Athletes must fill out a symptom tracker each day before they are allowed to participate.

The cleaning supplies mostly came from a Department of Health and Human Services grant, along with the Test Nebraska program. Testing on campus is provided for free at the Stone Health Center and the Lynn Farrell Arena, where tests are administered outside. If students are isolated and moved to medical housing, they will receive a charge of $150 “to help pay for additional cleaning and logistic costs.” Students quarantined in their dorm room will not receive a charge as of Sept. 16.

If students are in violation of HC COVID-19 mitigation guidelines, they will go through a restorative justice circle to help the community as a reparation for their mistakes. Students will “be given the opportunity to be responsible for their mistake in a way that helps the community, particularly in regards to supporting those who are in isolation and quarantine,” said Rhodes.

Indicators that determine HC’s phase of the matrix are the number of positive cases, number of students in medical housing, number of employees in quarantine or isolation, percent of medical housing being used and the relative risk level within the community. If an outbreak occurs with more than 15 positive cases in a week, HC would move to the “pink” level with remote learning and elimination of most in-person interactions. If more than 20 positive cases occur in a week, this “might result in a closing of the campus and students returning home for a period of time while learning virtually.”

When asked about the moving of people with current positive cases and if HC moved into the “red” level. 

“If HC goes to a “Red” level and students are asked to go home for a period, we would want to help isolated and quarantined students get home if possible, based on recommendations from the Health Department,” Rhodes said.

As HC continues with the semester, they ask the HC community to keep contact circles small, follow protocols both on and off campus and monitor and report symptoms.