Posted Mar 15, 2020 at 22:45. Revised Jan 9, 2021 at 17:32.
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This is the OC plan for dealing with the COVID-19 situation. Both the earlier draft and the final version have been lightly edited for clarity and to correct minor spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. Also see Oberlin’s initial COVID-19 plan.
COVID-19: Final Spring Recess Directive
Current Students, Faculty and Staff, Parents, Coronavirus Updates
Coronavirus update (March 15)
March 15, 2020 10:45 PM
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President
Dear Oberlin College Community,
As we have been preparing to face the challenges associated with COVID-19, one aspect that has become very clear is that this pandemic will continue to impact us in stages. The decision to require students, who are able, to leave campus by noon tomorrow is one example of our effort to get ahead of these stages. Another is the decision to complete the semester’s classes via remote learning.
Lorain County Public Health alerted us this evening that one of our employees in College Dining Services has tested positive for the virus. Public health researchers will be contacting individuals with whom this person has been in close contact so health officials can follow up appropriately. We expect additional information from the health department soon.
Out of respect for the employee’s privacy, and in accordance with federal regulations, we are not identifying this person. The employee worked in Stevenson Hall and last came to work on Wednesday. As a result, all grab and go meals will be distributed at Decafe on Monday. We will be sanitizing and cleaning Stevenson as soon as possible. Stevenson will reopen only after consultation with Lorain County Public Health.
This news, while challenging, is not unexpected. All of the readily available information about this virus tells us that many of us have been exposed. As testing becomes more accessible, we will invariably see the number of cases rise nationally and in our community as well. This is why our efforts at social distancing are so important. We, of course, will continue to communicate broadly and specifically, when appropriate, with the guidance of Lorain County Public Health.
I know that this news might bring additional anxiety as the spread of COVID-19 hits closer to home. Health officials stress that anyone who feels ill should not come to work or be around other people.
If you have flu-like symptoms, you should contact Oberlin Student Health Services at 440-775-8180 or the Ohio Department of Health at 833-427-5634. If you need to be seen by a healthcare provider, you will be advised where to go and how to get there. If your concern occurs after hours, please call Campus Safety at 440-775-8444. Mitigation protocols require that you not come to Student Health or Campus Safety unless instructed to do so. If you are off-campus, and you have a fever or respiratory symptoms, we urge you to call Oberlin Student Health Services or your healthcare provider before traveling to a healthcare facility. Calling first helps ensure appropriate measures to prevent COVID-19 are in place.
Oberlin faculty and staff:
Even as we do our part to slow the advance of COVID-19, we still must continue the work of the institution, serve our students, and maintain the College. But, we want to do this work with your health and safety at the forefront of our mind. If you are feeling ill, please do not come to work. While we develop an appropriate telecommuting policy, if you cannot come to work, you should reach out to your chair, head of your administrative unit, or supervisor to use your leave time during your absence. If you have any questions regarding leave time, contact Human Resources.
Health officials stress that our goal in addressing this pandemic is to slow the spread of COVID-19. To accomplish that goal, we all must practice good self-health, such as maintaining social distance, consistently washing hands, and covering sneezes and coughs. I am including these tips below as a reminder.
The most effective steps to slow the virus’ spread involves the following self-care steps:
wash our hands often with soap and water; if that is not possible, use hand sanitizer
cover our mouth and nose with our sleeve or a tissue when we sneeze or cough
avoid close contact (touching or shaking hands) with people who are sick
avoid touching our mouth, nose, and eyes
stay home when we are sick
The College has provided hand sanitizer stations in residential areas and public spaces throughout campus. Please use the sanitizer. Signs have been posted reminding people to wash their hands and practice good hygiene. The College also is increasing the frequency of services to clean and disinfect high-use areas. Disinfectant wipes are available to clean common-use items such as public computers, desktops, and pianos, and other instruments.
Remember how COVID-19 is spread:
The virus is primarily spread through respiration, which means to become infected, people generally must be within 6 feet of someone who is coughing or sneezing. Symptoms of the coronavirus appear within two to 14 days after exposure and include fever, cough, runny nose, and difficulty breathing. Reported cases have ranged from mild illness (similar to a common cold) to severe pneumonia that requires hospitalization.
For more information, please see our coronavirus FAQ page and the archive of previous messages on this topic. To submit a question, please send an email to Health.Info@oberlin.edu.
The full extent of this pandemic will not be known for some time. We do know that it will likely get worse before it gets better. We are all working through this challenge at our own pace and in our own way. I want you to know that we are here to help as we all work to make the best decisions we can to support our entire community.
Carmen Twillie Ambar
COVID-19: Initial Spring Recess Plan
March 10, 2020
Dear Oberlin College Community,
Our mission of educating students for lives of meaning is deeply important to all of us, but we cannot ensure this mission without a safe and healthy campus environment. The rapidly evolving circumstances of COVID-19 have moved us to change our usual practices in order to fulfill our mission. Expect that you will be hearing from us frequently as this situation changes by the day. While this email will not provide all of the answers to your questions, it provides the framework for our collective thinking on how to proceed.
Today, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine strongly encouraged colleges and universities to be prepared to provide their core mission by educating students remotely. He made the announcement one day after declaring a state of emergency when health officials confirmed three cases of COVID-19 in Cuyahoga County, our neighboring county to the east. Health officials have indicated that although no cases have been confirmed in the city of Oberlin or in Lorain County, it is likely that COVID-19 will more broadly impact our community in the coming days.
Public health authorities recommend that we practice “social distancing” as the best way to prevent the spread of the virus. Because it is very difficult to practice social distancing on a residential college campus and it would be particularly challenging for our institution to provide care for many people infected at one time, Oberlin is taking a number of proactive steps.
Date change: Classes will end on March 18, two days earlier than originally scheduled. We are asking students to spend Thursday, March 19 and Friday, March 20, preparing for the possibility of remote online courses after Spring Recess. During this time, students should pack their non-essential items into college provided boxes so that we can clean the residence halls during Spring Recess. When students depart for Spring Recess they will be advised to take all materials necessary for remote education. This would include items such as laptops, textbooks, notebooks, essential papers, and other equipment. Students will also be asked to take with them valuables and indispensable items. We will be sending an additional email to students with details regarding this process.
Should we need to continue classes after Spring Recess remotely, students should be prepared to remain at home for an extended period. We will make a determination about whether we will conduct classes remotely by Wednesday, March 25.
Students Who Must Stay on Campus: While we strongly encourage students to depart for Spring Recess, we realize that a few students will need to remain on campus. For those students, residence halls will be open and there will be limited access to revised dining hall options.
We are asking our entire campus community to complete our Spring Recess registry so that we know whether you are on campus, traveling home, or traveling in general. We will be providing a link to the registry in the next few days.
Should it become necessary, the College will be prepared to use Zoom technology to provide academic coursework remotely. The faculty will be receiving an additional email about our efforts to prepare for this potentiality. Training is currently underway to support Zoom technology and will continue through March 20.
No College-Sponsored Travel: College-sponsored international travel is not permitted during Spring Recess. Additionally, we are discouraging all personal international travel.
All non-essential work-related domestic travel for faculty and staff is not permitted. We will re-evaluate this matter on March 30.
Individuals who travel internationally may be required to be quarantined off-campus for 14 days before returning.
On-campus athletics events will continue as scheduled, however, a “no spectators” policy will be in effect. Competitions will be held only with required staff.
Large-scale public and co-curricular events that attract more than 50 people may be canceled or may be held with either a no-audience policy or live-streamed.
Faculty and Staff
Should we make a determination to continue a portion of our academic year using remote instruction, faculty and staff will still return to Oberlin after Spring Recess and continue their regular work schedule.
I know that this is a significant change and there are many issues to digest. I also realize that this is deeply impacting our entire community and I am committed to finding a way through this together. Our top priority, however, must be the welfare of the entire Oberlin community. We are taking these actions now, as disruptive as they may be, to lessen the risk of facing greater challenges and consequences in the future. I am confident that this is our best course of action going forward to support our faculty, staff, students and our mission.
We will continue to provide regular updates on how we are responding to COVID-19. Given how much this situation is changing, be prepared for adjustments. We, like the rest of our higher education colleagues, are making decisions in real-time as the situation is evolving.
I want to thank all of you for your incredible work on behalf of our institution. This will require all of us to be collaborative, to use our creative energy, and to work hard. My experience at Oberlin is that we are at our best during a challenge. While there will no doubt be issues along the way, I believe that like any challenge, we will meet it successfully.
Carmen Twillie Ambar, President