The Importance of Staying Vigilant

In light of developments at other universities that have been in the news recently, I thought you might appreciate a bit of good news Longwood’s Assistant Vice President for Communications Matthew McWilliams shared yesterday as well as an update on Covid-19 at Longwood and plans for Convocation next week.

In his email, McWilliams related that on Tuesday of this week, during a regular Covid-19 conference call for regional leaders and health officials, the Virginia Department of Health’s Piedmont Health District director, Dr. Robert Nash, asked that the university convey to our students his personal appreciation for the excellent public health habits he’s seen in practice these first weeks of the semester.

Our community appreciates your student’s efforts—please encourage them to keep it up. Poor decisions by just one or a few members of the community can have an enormous impact. Experiences at other universities show just how quickly and easily Covid-19 can spread.

We are fortunate that our smaller size and smaller classes make our circumstances different from large universities. Even so, everyone in the Longwood community must keep up their good habits and remain vigilant in order to have a successful semester.

Longwood’s Covid-19 dashboard

Longwood’s Covid-19 dashboard includes a daily tally of positive test results from the University Health Center that updates each day around 5 p.m. The dashboard also links to the official VDH site, which includes data on all reported cases by locality.

We’ve received some questions and feedback about possibly sharing additional information on the dashboard, in particular the number of self-reported positive cases we’ve heard about from students (for example, tests administered by providers other than the University Health Center). We have decided to focus on frequent (daily) updates of information we know for certain. This decision is based on our concerns about conveying information that may not be reliable or verifiable, or that could be misleading or potentially compromise student privacy. However, we are listening to this feedback, looking at what other institutions are doing and considering how we can responsibly share more.

“I can tell you that as of this writing, since most students began returning on Aug. 16, two students have notified the university of positive test results, in addition to the three confirmed at the UHC. One has now completed isolation and the other is isolating at home,” McWilliams said in the email.

testing and contact tracing

If your student has received a positive test result or is awaiting results from an off-campus provider, it is very important for them to inform the University Health Center at 434-395-2102. Our Quarantine Support Team will work with your student to ensure care and academic continuity, while at the same time protecting their privacy according to our practices and policies.

Communication and effective quarantining for those who may be contact-exposed are essential to limiting spread of the virus. VDH staff is leading all contact tracing and will let your student know if they are considered contact-exposed and need to go into quarantine. Students with questions can also contact the University Health Center.

Quarantine and Isolation

First of all, here’s the difference between quarantine and isolation: Quarantine is for those who are considered to have been contact-exposed to positive cases, either at Longwood or elsewhere, even if they have themselves tested negative. Isolation is for those who are themselves positive or presumed positive.

Some universities have expressed concerns about running short of space for students to quarantine or isolate in on-campus housing. Longwood’s housing situation and case numbers are very different. Almost all students who have needed to isolate or quarantine because of possible contact exposure have been able to do so in their own rooms, in their off-campus housing or at home.

On average, only about 1-2 students per day have needed to stay in our designated on-campus quarantine/isolation space in ARC Hall. We have ample capacity there, as well as in other locations if numbers increase and it is needed.

Convocation Plans

Lastly, we know Convocation is on the minds of many students and their parents. Longwood recognizes it is especially important this year to students to preserve rituals and traditions as best we can. It will be different this year—capping in particular may be more spread out in time and space than the traditional ceremony— but we very much hope to proceed next Thursday, Sept. 10, in some form, with appropriate precautions in place. There will be an email to campus within the next few days confirming plans.

—Sabrina Brown