Start of the academic year brings COVID-19 influx and university-wide policy updates

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An email sent out to students by Student Affairs detailed the University of Indianapolis’ updated COVID-19 policies outlining new procedures for positive test results, exposure and the end of contact tracing. Students are no longer required to report a positive test result to the Office of Student Affairs unless they are residential students, according to UIndy’s website. In that case, a positive test result should be reported to Associate Dean of Judicial Affairs and Residence Life Rob Williford. Provost and Executive Vice President Chris Plouff said that the university will no longer be doing contact tracing. Plouff said that the university’s policies on COVID-19 will continue to mirror the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines.

“It’s not as if people are required to report that they have [COVID-19] but … especially from the faculty and staff side, we know of a faculty member here or there that will either be exposed or get COVID and they notify their department chair or whoever else and so they have means of transitioning their courses or covering their course….” Plouff said, “And then, you do hear about students from here and there. … We’re providing accommodations to ensure that they’re able to continue their learning without getting behind and that sort of thing.”

According to the Indiana Department of Health COVID-19 dashboard, COVID-19 infections and hospitalizations rose in August with 839 statewide COVID-19 cases recorded in the week of August 24. Nationally, weekly COVID-19 hospitalizations have increased by nearly 8%, according to CDC data.

“… We are seeing an uptick,” Plouff said, “and we were concerned about it coming into the year, that there are upticks, especially with groups of people being together. When you have a campus community, you have a more concentrated area, people coming back together. Thankfully, most of us in the country now have gone through the process over a few years and we’ve gotten vaccinated.”

A new COVID-19 variant, BA.2.86, has been detected in the United States, according to the CDC’s recent risk assessment; However, it is not responsible for upticks in Indiana or in the US overall. BA.2.86 has also been detected in Canada, Denmark, the United Kingdom, South Africa, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland and Thailand. The CDC recommends that all individuals six months and older get an updated vaccine to better protect themselves from severe illness.

“We continue to encourage people to do the things that you should do to help with reducing the spread,” Plouff said, “washing your hands regularly, having hand sanitizer and stuff available in all of our locations and that and we still have that largely available, and if it’s not, we ask people to notify us because we are trying to make sure that hand sanitizer is everywhere.”

Plouff said that the health and safety of the campus community is the number one priority and that members of the UIndy community can expect the university to keep monitoring COVID-19 as developments occur. Plouff said he encourages students to follow whatever precautions they are comfortable with, including wearing a face covering.

“If you’re either uncomfortable, because of the potential chance of exposure because of being in closer contact with a larger group of people or you think you’ve been exposed—certainly wear a face covering where that makes sense and so forth so that we can help stop the spread.”

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