Message to Students from Mary Finger
October 20, 2020
As you might be aware, the incidence of COVID-19 cases in Westmoreland County has been on a significant rise over the course of the past few weeks with the positivity rate for the county now nearing 9 percent.
This rise in Westmoreland County case numbers has been felt at Seton Hill with increased cases for both students and faculty and staff in recent weeks. Seton Hill’s COVID-19 Daily Dashboard reflects campus and county updates, and I encourage you to review that information regularly.
Local and national health experts believe the rise can be tied to several factors, including the nature of the virus; the colder weather bringing people indoors; and, general fatigue over the virus and the restrictions we have been living with since March.
We understand this has been an incredibly challenging semester for our entire community, but we must remain vigilant – not just on campus – but in our actions off campus as well.
All of us are called upon to be Setonians and to exercise care and concern for one another. That care and concern must extend to what we do off campus, especially considering the spread of the virus throughout Westmoreland County.
Please continue to wear masks anytime you are outside your home or residence hall room, wash your hands regularly and gather in limited size groups. As part of the Social Contract, students must not attend or host gatherings of more than 10 people. In addition, students living in the Residence Halls cannot have outside guests, and must limit any gatherings of Seton Hill students in their room to double the number of people living in the room up to a maximum of 10 people. For example, a student living alone in a two-person room can only have two people in their room – the resident and one guest. Those living in a six-person suite could only have four guests in order to not exceed the maximum of 10 people in their room.
I cannot stress enough how critical it is to wear masks and physical distance at all times when you are visiting with or near people who do not live in your household or residence hall room. When in doubt, please wear a mask and ensure your safety and the safety of those around you.
In particular, our Health Services and Contact Tracing team members have discovered several positive COVID-19 cases tied to students, faculty or staff who have recently been at a local gym. In the interest of the health and safety of our community, it is strongly recommended that you avoid local gyms at this time. If you must go to a local gym, please wear a mask while working out and make sure you are cleaning equipment before and after use.
I am pleased to share with you that the McKenna Center reopened on Monday, October 19. As a reminder, the hours are from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. and masks are required.
Daily Self-Screening and COVID-19 Testing
As a reminder, all students should conduct a Daily Self-Screening before coming to campus or leaving their residence hall rooms and be alert for symptoms of COVID-19. Students experiencing symptoms – or those who have been exposed to COVID-19 - should not attend classes and should seek medical treatment through the Health Services Office or their own medical provider. If you are tested off campus, please inform Health Services.
Any student may request to be tested by emailing email@example.com. Questions about quarantine, isolation and contact tracing may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org. A list of answers to frequently asked questions about isolation and quarantine may be found here.
Launching Our New Contact Tracing App
This week, Seton Hill will launch a contact tracing app, SaferMe, that will allow the Health Services and Contact Tracing teams to help identify contacts of individuals on campus who have tested positive for COVID-19.
The Health Services Office will send more information soon about the app, including how to download and access it. The university investigated and tested more than a dozen contact tracing apps before deciding to use SaferMe to help aid and enhance Seton Hill’s manual contract tracing efforts. SaferMe will help keep the campus community healthy while safeguarding user privacy. The information from SaferMe will only be available to Health Services administrators and the trained contact tracing team and shared at the highest levels on a limited, need-to-know basis in the event of a positive case.
As part of the Social Contract, all Seton Hill students are required to download the SaferMe app. We are strongly encouraging all faculty and staff to download the app at this time.
Health Services and Giant Eagle will sponsor the last flu clinic this fall on Thursday, October 22 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the McKenna Center and 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center. As of this writing more than 400 Seton Hill community members have been immunized through the flu clinics this year – double all of last year.
As a reminder, the Social Contract requires that students receive a flu shot when they are available on campus, or submit a record proving receipt of flu shot from another location to Health Services. Exemptions will be granted for medical or religious reasons, and the deadline for student participation is December 1, 2020. Please see the full policy here.
Thank you for doing your part to keep our community healthy!
Overwhelmingly, Seton Hill students have followed the protocols and procedures put in place this semester for everyone’s safety. I recognize how incredibly challenging this experience has been and how this pandemic has changed your college experience in so many ways. I want to thank all of the Seton Hill students who continue to take a critical role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19.
When any member of the Seton Hill community engages in high-risk behaviors such as not wearing a mask or attending parties or other gatherings, they not only put their own health in jeopardy but may also spread COVID-19 to others within our campus community, including the dedicated Seton Hill faculty and staff members who have done outstanding work throughout this semester to work quickly and creatively to respond to the needs of our students who want to complete their learning in a face-to-face setting.
All of us must remain vigilant. Your continued commitment to being healthy and safe is of paramount importance as we work together to complete the final weeks of this semester in a face-to-face learning format.
As Dr. Thomas Walsh, medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Allegheny Health Network, said in a recent Tribune-Review article, “Just because we’re getting tired of the virus doesn’t mean the virus is getting tired of us.”
The Seton Hill community is amazing, and I appreciate all you do each day to support one another. Thank you for all of your efforts in following the important health and safety protocols both on and off campus.