The impacts of COVID-19 on our campus

Between the new BlendFlex model, classroom capacities, limited gathering sizes and masks covering the faces of every Shark, it’s hard to miss the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on NSU.  

 

As the university begins its fourth week of the fall semester, the community has been operating under new guidelines and recommendations since the majority of students returned to campus nearly a month ago. University officials have started to see how these plans have impacted operations and COVID-19 case numbers at NSU.

 

As of Wednesday, Sept. 2, NSU has had one confirmed case of COVID-19 in the residence halls. According to Beth Welmaker, the executive director of environmental health and safety for NSU, this student has already completed their isolation period. Other members of the community have also had confirmed cases as well, although these students were non-residential and/or taking classes remotely.

 

“We’ve had graduate and undergraduate students that have shared [their test results] with us, even though they’re taking online classes. I’ve had a small number of undergraduate students share with us that they have tested positive for COVID-19 — even though they’re taking online classes, they are complying with our request to share their status,” said Welmaker.

 

While there are not currently any confirmed cases within NSU’s residence halls, the university has plans in place, if it becomes necessary. Case managers and staff are trained and ready to manage cases if and when they occur. 

 

If a student tests positive for COVID-19, they are instructed to isolate in their individual room for at least 10 days after specific symptoms are resolved, under the guidance of a case manager. Suite-mates of a positive case are also required to quarantine for 14 days. In addition, they will be assigned a case manager who will advise them and ensure they have enough food and supplies during their quarantine. 

 

At this time, there are no specific criteria set by the university that would trigger the start of limited or fully remote operations — closures and restrictions would be caused by directives from public health officials from the local department of health. If cases in the communities surrounding the university were to increase, NSU plans to act accordingly, following communications from the department of health. 

 

Aside from plans surrounding the residence halls, there are also processes in place to manage cases that may impact other areas of the campus. 

 

“We have spent all summer laser-focused on how we’re going to safely operate and be able to conduct the business of education in a way that best protects our students, faculty and staff. That’s been our goal since early spring. With that, we also have to plan and have contingencies in the event that there’s an outbreak or potentially a surge in cases,” said Welmaker.

 

If individuals share confirmation of a positive test result with the university, persons who may potentially be impacted by said case will be notified. If an individual was within the proximity of a positive case — for example, in a classroom setting — they are advised to continue to self-assess their symptoms, wear a face mask, keep their distance from others and follow other safety procedures in place by the university and the CDC. These individuals do not need to be tested, but are asked to maintain extra vigilance in adhering to public health standards. 

 

An individual is considered to be “exposed” to COVID-19 when they have been within six feet of a confirmed-positive case for longer than 15 minutes. Even if an individual has only been in the proximity of a confirmed-positive individual, the exposed individuals will be quarantined for 14 days. If a student is in quarantine due to direct exposure and receives a negative test result, they are still not permitted to terminate their quarantine early.

 

Currently, members of the NSU community will be notified of their potential proximity or exposure to COVID-19 on a case-by-case basis. Universities across the country have a “dashboard” of virus statistics available for their students.  However, this is still in discussion at NSU.

 

“I know [having a dashboard of COVID-19 statistics] is being discussed and considered. When [will] they make a decision one way or another? I don’t know the timeline for that. I can say that I provide the executive office with statistics and updates on a weekly basis on any cases that are reported to NSU,” said Welmaker.

 

Individuals are encouraged to continue to adhere to safety guidelines and stay up to date by visiting NSU’s COVID-19 webpage, www.nova.edu/coronavirus as well as the CDC, WHO and Florida Department of Health websites.

 

“We don’t want to have to send people home or be told it got out of control. I think everybody has the same goal in mind: we want you all to be safe and I think the students want to be here. And they know that, to be here, we have to keep our cases down and do the right thing,” said Welmaker.

 

If a student is having any symptoms, they are advised to reach out to NSU’s Telehealth line at (954) 262-4100, where they will be connected to a physician who will review their symptoms and, if needed, schedule a COVID-19 test on campus. Additionally, students can email COVIDcase@nova.edu to provide updates on their symptoms and test results, even if the results are still pending, and to get assigned a COVID-19 case manager to oversee the situation and offer assistance, if necessary. Emailing COVIDcase will also immediately provide students with the Telehealth number, as well as links to employee and graduate/professional student report forms, the undergraduate student form and the form to report exposures

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