COVID-19 RESPONSE

Open with Classes On-Campus

A message from Gannon University President Keith Taylor

Posted: September 17, 2020

Dear Gannon Community,

We have had a challenging week in terms of COVID-19. We anticipated an uptick after the long Labor Day holiday, and it has arrived. Our on-going testing and screening program has revealed a number of new cases, most of them being asymptomatic students.

Since Sunday, we have equaled the number of positives we experienced in Erie from June 1 to last week. These new cases are a result of the more than 2,300 tests we’ve administered since July and for which we’ve had a positivity rate of less than 1 percent. While any ongoing cases are unwelcome, our care for these students remains quite manageable. But this experience serves as a moment of reflection on how far we’ve come, where we stand and what we’re doing.

As we close out week six of the academic year, we have 11 students in isolation in Erie and 71 others in quarantine. All will continue with their education through the flexible delivery model being used. In Ruskin, we continue to have zero in isolation and zero in quarantine. (You can see our dashboard at https://update.gannon.edu/Information/Dashboard.)

For now, in Erie, we have been able to accommodate our students on campus by placing positive cases in isolation, quarantining others in different rooms, and – in cases where entire rooms have been deemed “close contacts” – they are quarantining in place. We appreciate the patience and grace you all have brought to the experience.

Along the way, there has been understandable confusion about what is “isolation” and what is a “close contact.” Our nurses and Residence Life employees have been doing their best to explain. To learn more about this, see a recent post at https://update.gannon.edu/Update/Detail/57. For this letter, however, it is helpful to offer that “close contacts” are those who have been closer than six feet for more than 15 minutes with or without a mask to a known COVID-positive person.

Though our teams are doing great work and diligently following their pod model of practice, two of our athletic teams have been especially affected this week and a number of athletes are in quarantine. We have suspended the activity of those teams through next week and have shifted the practice style of our other teams to more independent workouts. Our analysis and contact tracing of the current week’s cases leads us to believe that the close contact happened not at practice, but during the natural socializing that occurs when we’re on our own time.

Our students have so far been doing so many things right – wearing masks, maintaining distance, avoiding large social gatherings.

Even this week, those good behaviors are on display across campus.

We need to keep at that.

We believe our testing and screening is helping to make this a healthier community. We are finding asymptomatic cases and isolating them – in effect limiting the possible reach of the disease. We are comforted to know that nearly all of the students with COVID who have developed symptoms since June have had mild experiences.

We will continue to screen and test, and to isolate or quarantine when necessary. And, we have a team managing care@gannon.edu to look after our students needing services.

We knew there could be struggles while operating during a pandemic. We appreciate the commitment everyone – students, staff and faculty – have made to look after each other’s well-being. That is important this week as in any other.

We will get through this moment together. We have done so much and achieved so much since the first students arrived in mid-July. We will learn what there is to learn from this week and adjust as needed – and we will continue moving closer Thanksgiving and the end of the semester.

In peace,

Keith Taylor, Ph.D.
President