Dear CC Community,
We are thrilled to be back on campus for the start of the 2021-22 academic year. New students moved in last week, and our returning students are arriving this week. The energy on campus is palpable, and it is a welcome change to see so many people back in person.
While campus operations have been much more normal, it is important to remember that the pandemic is still ongoing. At CC, we have taken a data-driven, evidence-based approach to mitigating the impact of the pandemic on our campus. Because of your remarkable work, we did not experience significant outbreaks last year. Our layered mitigation system has been designed to reduce risk and allow us to return to campus life that we have all missed so much.
We have much to look forward to, but this year won’t be easy and sometimes there will be setbacks. The course of this pandemic will continue shifting as it has in the past, and we may need to adapt our plans in response to new developments. We anticipate that the CC community will continue to do very well, however, we also expect that COVID-19 infections will occur throughout the year. We are prepared to take care of and support students in quarantine and isolation, and our Wellness Resource Center and additional resources are available to support the mental health of our campus community. We are all in this together, and we are looking forward to navigating this new academic year with you. As we begin the Fall Semester, we want to share some details of our layered COVID-19 Response Plan.
In April 2021, we announced that all members of the campus community would need to be vaccinated against COVID-19 (or submit an exemption claim). Thanks to your efforts, our vaccination rate for on-campus students, faculty, and staff is high, enabling us to come together, in-person. Vaccination remains the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones from severe illness and is a critical part of our layered risk mitigation COVID-19 Response Plan. If you haven’t yet done so, please get vaccinated!
All students are tested for COVID-19 upon arrival and will be required to participate in our testing program throughout the year. Testing has proven to be an effective way to interrupt chains of infection that may otherwise result in outbreaks.
Unvaccinated students remain most vulnerable to COVID-19 infection and will test twice weekly. In addition, a proportion (33% starting in Block 1) of vaccinated students will participate in weekly testing. Vaccinated students will be assigned to one of three groups and test in their assigned week. We will adjust testing frequency based on the number of infections among CC community members. When incidence is low, we will need less testing, when incidence increases, we will test more. This type of adaptive testing can prevent outbreaks from occurring and helps to minimize the impact of quarantine and isolation. For this strategy to work, we need your help: Please participate in ongoing testing, and look for an email with detailed instructions.
Anyone experiencing symptoms should get tested at the Student Health Center and stay home when feeling ill. The college will provide isolation rooms to students who receive positive test results as needed. We will continue to complete contact tracing and notifications when CC community members receive positive test results. Ongoing wastewater testing has been a component of CC’s mitigation plan since September 2020 and will stay in place as an early warning system.
Masks reduce the risk of transmission through droplets and aerosols that tend to accumulate in poorly ventilated indoor spaces. Following CDC guidance, everyone on campus, vaccinated or unvaccinated, is required to wear a mask in public indoor spaces when transmission in the county is substantial or high. We expect universal indoor masking to be in place temporarily, until transmission in the county has declined to lower levels or more is known about the likelihood of vaccinated people to transmit the virus. People in individual offices and students in their rooms need not wear a mask. We encourage everyone to promote public health in El Paso County by masking when in public indoor spaces, including grocery stores, gyms, and other shared spaces, and choosing lower-risk options such as restaurants with outdoor seating.
Because the Coronavirus spreads primarily through the air, and more specifically in poorly ventilated enclosed spaces where aerosols tend to build up, ventilation and encouraging outdoor activities are another important layer in our mitigation system. Our facilities team has improved fresh air intake and air filtration in many campus buildings, and several classes and programs will take place outdoors on our beautiful campus. Please remember to prioritize lower-risk activities and outdoor options over indoor gatherings while transmission in the county is substantial or high.
Personally, we are directly supporting our ongoing COVID-19 response teams:
As announced earlier this month, the COVID-19 Policy and Implementation Committee is developing policies and implementation plans to lead the college’s ongoing response to the pandemic. Comprising faculty, staff, and students, the committee will also provide clear direction and guidance as we execute and adapt CC’s COVID-19 response plan.
Professor Andrea Bruder is the chief public health advisor to the president. In this role, she advises the COVID-19 Policy and Implementation Committee on the scientific and public health implications of COVID-19. She also chairs the Scientific Advisory Group, leads testing efforts, and consults with offices and departments on implementation of COVID-19 protocols. Andrea will also lead the college’s surge response plan.
We understand and expect that you will still have many questions. Please feel free to send questions to us at email@example.com. We will share details about an upcoming town hall for staff, faculty, students, and parents on our COVID-19 response soon. We are all in this together, and we are looking forward to navigating this new academic year with you.
Chief Public Health Advisor to the President
Chair, COVID-19 Policy and Implementation Committee