Dear Saint Joseph’s Community –

Today we are announcing the College’s plan to get ahead of the spread of new positive cases of COVID-19 on our campus. This plan is aimed at sustaining our ability to continue living and learning here in Standish for the remainder of the semester. As I’ve previously explained, this is a moment we’ve been planning for since March, and all of the processes we developed are now working as designed.

First, let me offer a bit of reassurance: the positive cases on our campus are not widespread. Our contact tracing processes have identified that the majority of the cases came from the same connected group. Most of them are from a single residence hall. We will remain vigilant and continue to identify cases early through our wastewater testing, expand our individual surveillance testing, and use the CDC’s support for contact tracing to minimize, and ultimately stop, the spread of the virus.

Next, let me take a moment to acknowledge a few groups of people here at Saint Joe’s.

First, our Health and Wellness Center staff is going above and beyond to care for our students, locate the virus, and stop its spread. It is an enormously complex and exhausting job, and they deserve our gratitude. Their speed and compassion are a model for how we should approach this pandemic. I thank them.

The second group is our students that have tested positive and are now in isolation, and their close contacts in quarantine. We know this is a disconcerting and potentially lonely moment for you and your families. This is important: you are not alone. Any student isolating or quarantining in our care will not be isolated. Already, we are developing care packages and activities to make this process easier. We are Monks. We’re going to get through this together.

For the rest of campus, it’s time for us to come together and show solidarity with our friends who are now in isolation, while protecting everyone in this community. So here’s what we’re going to do:

Starting tomorrow, Sunday, September 13th, SJC will implement a “study-in-place” program for all campus students, for those in residence, and commuters. This protective “surge” will last for up to two weeks (and be continuously evaluated), as a precaution to stop viral transmission and eventually return to Level 1 status and “normal” campus life.

What does this mean? First, all classes will be delivered remotely, and students will learn from their rooms on campus. Commuter students will learn from their off-campus residences.

Along with the change to instructional delivery, students will be required to stay in their rooms as much as possible for this period. We know this will be difficult, but both the College and the CDC view this as a necessary step that will give us the space we need to stop the spread of the virus.

The CDC does not recommend that all students return home, because Saint Joseph’s is a safer place than many other communities at this time and has an enhanced ability to catch the virus and provide care quickly. We will use this opportunity to test every student on campus, starting on Monday, and isolate any individuals that test positive and their contacts.

The entire staff of SJC is working on ideas to make this moment easier for our students. There will be defined opportunities to get out of residence halls and enjoy Saint Joe’s:

  • Students may still walk to Pearson’s to take out their meals and bring them back to their rooms.

  • Students may use outdoor spaces on their own time, as long as they are using them with no more than one other person, either with masks or while socially distanced.

  • Student Engagement has asked all departments on campus to suggest outdoor and virtual activities to make this moment more fun for all students, in addition to the events they already have planned. Please let them know if you have a great idea.

  • Athletic teams will practice outdoors with increased safety protocols, and we’re working to expand fitness opportunities for all students that are outdoors, socially distanced, and safe.

  • The Counseling Center and ACE are ramping up virtual support opportunities to help with both anxiety and academic progress.

Additionally, there will be some specific areas of College life that will be curtailed for the duration of this period:

  • Campus will be effectively closed to visitors. Campus Safety will create a “comfort zone” at the entrance to campus to make sure anyone coming and going is staying safe.

  • Alfond Center will be closed for the week.

  • Baggot Street seating areas will be closed, but the usual selection of food will be available “to go.”

  • Indoor common areas (with the exception of Pearson’s) will be closed to students. College offices will continue to remain open.

  • Requests for any gatherings must be run through the Pandemic Response Team.

  • Arrangements for off-campus clinicals and student teaching placements, and other off-campus work will be detailed in a subsequent communication from the appropriate faculty or staff member.

  • With the exception of students who work as essential employees within departments critical to campus operations, student employment on campus will be temporarily suspended for up to two weeks while the College takes action to control the spread of the virus. Essential personnel include members of the following departments: Facilities Management, Campus Safety, Pearson’s Café, Payroll (during payroll weeks only), Campus Life, and Athletics.

Finally, our students who test positive for COVID-19 will be isolated for 10 days in O’Connor Hall, or at home if students and their families choose. To allow us to focus our space and care on these students, individuals going through the contact tracing process who must quarantine for 14 days must do so off-campus, with certain exceptions.

Changes are taking place quickly on campus right now, so we will be updating everyone on a frequent basis. The Campus Health Dashboard will be updated daily during this period, seven days a week. And College staff will be checking in frequently to make sure everyone’s doing ok. If you have questions, please use the coronaquestions@sjcme.edu email to let us know.

Let’s pull together now, so we can stay together for the semester. If you see something that feels unsafe, say it out loud. We’re counting on each other more than ever, so please look out for your neighbor as you would yourself. Wear your face mask, watch your distance of 6 ft, and wash your hands regularly.

Thank you all for keeping Saint Joseph’s safe.

Sincerely,
Jim