Open with Classes On-Campus

We are learning a lot of things about COVID-19, and a lot from it.

Posted: October 8, 2020

We are learning a lot of things about COVID-19, and a lot from it.

We have experienced another wave of positive cases over the past two weeks, 21 cases in all. The number is larger than we would like, but almost all of the cases are from two “bubble groups” – one student organization and one group from a largely off-campus graduate program. As with our previous wave in September, these cases are isolated to select groups and do not reflect a widespread outbreak nor are they the result of large group gatherings. We are learning first hand that it does not take a large gathering to spread this virus or to create a challenge for the community.

Unlike September, when the surrounding Erie community had a low incidence of cases, we are now also seeing some of our Gannon population becoming “close contacts” to people not related to the university. This is increasing our numbers in quarantine beyond those related to our own positive cases.

Gratefully, our Ruskin campus continues to have very limited direct impact from COVID-19. We have not had a positive case there for more than a month.

The common denominator for the recent cases in Erie is after-hours socialization. COVID is patient, we’re learning. We can fend it off with mask wearing, washing our hands and keeping our distance. But when we let down our guard – especially with people who might be outside our normal “pod” – COVID finds a way in. Such was the case with the student organization, and such was the case with the grad students. Small social groups gathered, included and engaged with others from outside the university community, and a single case evolves into a significant number of individuals with the virus and even larger number in quarantine as a safety byproduct.

This is yet another vivid reminder to remain vigilant to make it possible for us to stay in community and protect the safety of those around us.

In response to this new experience, the university increased the number of tests we’re collecting to about 400 per week. We have purchased additional equipment and hired personnel to enhance our testing capabilities and we will be increasing this aggressive testing protocol even further. We have been and will continue to randomly test students from other parts of campus, including clubs and organizations, residence hall floors, and students who share labs and close group activities, to enhance the surveillance testing of a wider representation of our population.

But testing doesn’t protect us from this contagion – safe behaviors do.

To that end, we are recommending our students – whether you live on or off campus  – limit the size of any gathering they might have to keep your “pod” small. Stick within your established small social groups from now until the end of the semester and continue to do as you have been in not holding or attending unauthorized parties.

You should continue to watch your distance, wash your hands and wear your mask.

We are closing in on the end of the semester and Thanksgiving. We have come so far. A few more weeks of discipline and then we’ll be off for the holidays. Let’s finish strong and protect each other to the end.


Dr. Keith Taylor