Augustana College is encouraging flu shots and students staying home after Thanksgiving to help fight COVID-19.
The college has implemented a number of COVID-19 mitigation and response strategies for the fall semester, including asking residential students to remain on campus as much as possible and the implementation of face covering and social distancing requirements.
“We know that the things that we’ve asked haven’t been easy this fall semester, but, by and large, our students have done it. Our faculty and staff have done it,” Wes Brooks, Augustana’s vice president and dean of student life, said during a Wednesday afternoon update on the college’s COVID-19 response.
During the update, available in its entirety on the college’s YouTube page, Brooks and other officials said the measures already in place would continue, and also discussed the newer measures.
Brooks encouraged the college community to get flu shots to help minimize the risk of burdening the Quad-Cities health care infrastructure with both flu and COVID-19 cases simultaneously.
Residential students planning to leave the residence halls for Thanksgiving are being asked not to return to campus until after the fall semester ends. That would mean they would not be back until either January for specific classes, or the start of the spring semester.
Health officials are anticipating a surge in COVID-19 cases in coming months, Brooks said. It would be better for as many students as possible to finish the fall semester at home or other Thanksgiving destinations rather than return to campus, so Augustana is asking students who can leave at Thanksgiving and stay home through the end of the semester to do so.
Classes for the post-Thanksgiving remainder of the semester will be fully remote, he said.
Beginning Nov. 25, all in-person athletic activities at Augustana and other schools in the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin will cease though Jan. 1, Brooks said. They are expected to resume on Jan. 2 if pandemic conditions do not require further postponement.
In the meantime, the college also wants its students to continue staying close to campus, to limit gatherings to 10 or fewer people, to eat only in outside seating at restaurants and continue to avoid The District in downtown Rock Island, Brooks said.
The academic calendar has also been altered, including the spring semester starting a week later than normal, Wendy Hilton-Morrow, Augustana’s provost said. There will be no spring break.
The changes are meant to mitigate the risk of spreading COVID-19, she said. They will not alter the number of class days.
The college’s number of positive COVID-19 cases identified in its community have dropped each of the past four weeks, Brooks said. Four weeks ago, there were eight. That number is now four.
The total number of positive cases among students has been 26 this semester, he said.
Other pandemic-related numbers were also declining, he said. On Sept. 28, there were 74 students quarantined because of possible exposure to the coronavirus. That number is now 27.
Augustana’s safety measures and response to positive cases are allowing for face-to-face interactions to continue, but are only as effective as the compliance of the people expected to abide by them, he said.
“Please continue to keep up the great work,” he said.
Steve Bahls, the college’s president, said he appreciated the ongoing efforts of the campus community to help mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on Augustana.
“We have really pulled together to meet the challenges of this fall,” Bahls said.
He said, however, that there were still six weeks before Thanksgiving and that early success could breed complacency.
Complacency when dealing with the pandemic will lead to failure, so students and employees must continue to abide by mitigation requirements, Bahls said. People must be vigilant both with themselves and others in continuing to follow the COVID-19 safety practices.