Important COVID-19 Planning Updates
March 10, 2020Dear Grinnellians, The coronavirus COVID-19 continues to spread across the United States and around the globe. There are no known cases on campus. However, because the situation is changing so rapidly, for the good of our campus and city community, we feel compelled to move forward with plans to prevent or slow the transmission of the virus as best we can, and mitigate its risks once it comes to our community. We are looking at information from the most reliable medical experts to weigh risks and next actions. We are cognizant that the close living quarters of a college campus create an environment that has a particularly high risk of transmission and are unwilling to put our most vulnerable community members at risk. Our goals are first and foremost to keep our students, faculty, and staff safe including those most vulnerable in this situation; to support course completion and graduation; and to not overburden students who are in financial need. We are striving to meet our social responsibility and serve the common good. Students, faculty, or staff members who have special concerns because of COVID-19 risk factors, such as underlying health conditions or age, should contact Student Affairs, the Dean’s Office, or Human Resources, respectively so that they can assist you in making a plan that will lower your chance of infection.
We are implementing the following practices and policies effective immediately through May 15 (the end of the spring 2020 term). Note that campus will remain open until further notice and all faculty and staff should continue their regular work schedules. Updates will be forthcoming as details are available.
Shifting to Distance Learning and Minimizing Students in Residence
Many of us have read about the shortage of protective gear, hand sanitizer, hospital capacity, and the limited availability of test kits. As we consider these realities, and the possibility of high transmission rates once the virus has entered campus, and we consider the possibility of students, faculty, and staff returning to campus with the virus, we are making the unusual precautionary measure to direct all students to make plans to go home for Spring Break and finish the semester there.
Students Will Be Expected to Leave Campus – please read in full
All students are expected to leave campus by Monday, March 23. Details on meal plans will be forthcoming. If you need emergency financial assistance, please contact Student Affairs. We will be asking all students to share information about their plans to leave campus. Please be on the look-out for an e-mail from Student Affairs with an individual link to a form for you to register your plans. All students MUST fill out this form. STUDENTS WITH EXCEPTIONAL REASONS TO STAY ON CAMPUS CAN PETITION TO REMAIN VIA THIS SAME FORM. We encourage students to take as many of their belongings as possible, particularly the items and materials they need to continue their studies remotely after the break. A subsequent notice to students will provide more information about packing and moving support.
Guidance for Students Petitioning to Remain on Campus
- Students petitioning to remain on campus will be expected to stay within the state of Iowa for the remainder of the semester.
- If you will petition to remain on campus and have plans to leave the state, do not leave until you have received a response from Student Affairs. (See “Travel Restrictions and Advisories” below)
- If you have already left the state of Iowa and will be petitioning to stay on campus, please contact Student Affairs IMMEDIATELY.
Academic Continuity – Shift to Distance Learning
- Classes will continue to meet as scheduled through Friday, March 13.
- The College is preparing options for distance teaching and learning for all academic program elements (classes, labs, etc.) Starting after spring break, March 30, the College will shift to online learning (which will include students who are approved to remain on campus).
- Faculty will receive information about support for on-line instruction, and we will be sharing guidance throughout the week with staff about how these new policies will impact daily operations.
- We will take care that students bear no undue burden based on their status, including financial need. More information on how the College will address this will be forthcoming.
- Administrative offices will continue to operate, and the libraries will remain open. The possibility of other buildings, such as the BEAR, being open will be under review over Spring Break and a final determination will be made by March 30.
Travel Restrictions and Advisories
You may have read that several colleges are now severely restricting campus-sponsored travel. Last week, Grinnell announced a prohibition on college-sponsored international travel. Today we are expanding that restriction to include all college-sponsored travel – international inbound and outbound, as well as domestic inbound and outbound.
- All College-sponsored international and domestic travel (outbound and inbound) is suspended through May 15.
- Individuals may petition to request essential College-sponsored domestic travel (contact Heather Cox with petitions for exceptions).
- This travel restriction includes group travel such as musical, athletic, and alternative break trips. Information about possible reimbursements for impacted students, faculty, and staff is forthcoming.
Individual Travel for Faculty and Staff
- Personal international travel is strongly discouraged.
- We emphatically urge caution and judgment for your personal domestic travel.
- If you are currently traveling or planning to travel, you are required to register your travel using the unique link that will be sent to you by the Office of Analytical and Institutional Research.
Meetings and Events for Faculty, Staff, and Students Approved to Remain on Campus
Starting Monday, March 16, we will begin instituting a series of policies and practices based on the concept of social distancing. Our goal is to decrease the number of instances that require community members to gather in large groups or spend extended periods of time in close proximity with each other.
- All athletics events, including practices and competitions, are cancelled for the remainder of the semester.
- All events requested by off-campus groups or individuals seeking to use College facilities will be canceled.
- We are working to limit other large gatherings on campus.
- We are considering canceling Commencement ceremony, Reunion, and other large events.
Please remember, the following precautionary measures may aid in defending against the flu and COVID-19:
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue or upper arm/elbow.
- Clean hands frequently and thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Regularly clean and disinfect shared surfaces and objects that are touched frequently (faucets, doorknobs, phones, etc.).
- Avoid contact with sick people.
We are committed to taking action now so that we can decrease risk to our community. While we acknowledge these decisions are disruptive to the remainder of the Spring term, we believe they are essential to the well-being of Grinnellians and the broader community. We are fortunate to have experienced, knowledgeable, and committed leaders working through this continually changing situation. We will continue to monitor the impact of COVID-19 through the most reliable medical experts, as well as state and federal agencies. I want to thank everyone involved in planning and addressing the many issues this complex and dynamic situation presents. And thank you in advance to all Grinnellians for your patience and assistance as circumstances continue to evolve and our response necessarily will too. We are in the process of scheduling Town Hall sessions tentatively set for Noon-1 p.m. and 4-5 p.m. tomorrow (Wednesday, March 11) in Herrick Chapel to share information and answer questions. DO NOT attend if you are feeling sick. Arrangements for virtual attendance at the Town Hall are pending. Further communication about the Town Hall meetings are forthcoming.