COVID-19 Update: Adjusted Guidelines and Plans Going Forward

Date

Dear Kenyon community,

​​Two weeks ago, in response to a precipitous rise in COVID cases among Kenyon students, the College adopted a set of temporary policies to limit the risk of further transmission and protect our capacity to care for the community. Since then, the COVID steering committee has conducted baseline testing of students and begun to analyze the results; expanded isolation housing and created contingencies for when cases exceed available spaces; communicated with students, families, faculty and staff about conditions on campus and the steps we are taking to address them; and developed a revised set of policies and practices that we believe are resilient enough to serve us through the fall semester, knowing that conditions will change. 

What have we learned?

As of yesterday, 1,696 tests had yielded 65 positive results, or a 3.8% positivity rate overall; 96% of students who tested positive are fully vaccinated. Positive results were concentrated among tests administered last Wednesday, when symptomatic students were tested; the positivity rate dropped below 2% for tests administered on Friday and Monday. As expected, tests of symptomatic students and close contacts have higher positivity rates than the general population, but even among close contacts, more than 90% of last week’s tests were negative. Those with symptoms report that they are mild to moderate. This is consistent with reports that while infections can and do occur in vaccinated individuals, the vaccine is effective at preventing severe illness. Based on contact tracing both this year and last, we know of no cases of transmission in the classroom.

Also as of yesterday, 97% of students and 79.3% of employees are fully vaccinated. Another 14.5% of employees have not yet reported their vaccination status. We are actively considering extending our mandate to employees given the Food and Drug Administration’s full approval of the vaccine and proposed federal rules for employers with more than 100 employees. 

These data collection efforts, which have required the entire health services team, all of our athletic trainers, human resources staff and countless others, give us a firm foundation for making informed decisions. 

What are our plans going forward?

We are making the following adjustments to our guidelines, effective Thursday, Sept. 16, unless noted otherwise. Details are provided on our website, and I encourage you to review them carefully.

  • Beginning Sept. 20, students may elect to receive up to one COVID test per week, though weekly surveillance testing will be compulsory only for unvaccinated students. The health center will continue to provide medical evaluation and testing for symptomatic students, and close contacts will continue to be tested 3-5 days after exposure.

  • Students who test positive will be encouraged to isolate at home if they are able or moved to isolation housing as long as rooms are available. If cases exceed available isolation housing, as is currently the case, students will isolate in their rooms. A small number of rooms are reserved for roommates who wish to relocate temporarily.

  • Universal masking guidelines remain in place with few exceptions.

  • Classes will continue in-person as scheduled, with any temporary remote instruction ending by Sept. 22.

  • Peirce Hall will offer both dine-in and takeout options for students, with a designated pick-up location for students isolating or quarantining on campus.

  • Organized events may include up to 50 people outdoors; indoor events are limited to previously established room capacities. Food and beverage restrictions apply, and compliance officers are required to ensure that all guidelines are followed. 

  • Informal gatherings, indoors or out, are limited to 10 people.

  • Students may have one guest per resident in their room or apartment, not to exceed 10 people total in an apartment or residential common area. 

  • Students should exercise caution when traveling off campus.

  • Campus remains open to visitors, who are required to follow all campus guidelines. At this time, we expect to welcome families to campus in late October, with modified programs to maintain a safe campus during their visit.

The Kenyon community was remarkably effective at limiting the spread of infection last year. This year, students and the majority of our employees have embraced the most effective tool available: the vaccine. But as we have seen, it is not the only tool we need. Basic health hygiene, proper masking and gathering responsibly provide additional layers of protection. Testing when we are sick or when we have a heightened risk of exposure allows us to make informed decisions about our activities while protecting limited public health resources. 

Our goal is to educate and empower all members of our community to live responsibly in a world with COVID. Our guidelines and policies seek to do the same at the institutional level. 

Sincerely, 

Drew Kerkhoff
Associate Provost and Professor of Biology
Chair, COVID-19 Steering Committee


Testing

Moving forward, all students may elect to receive up to one COVID test per week, though weekly surveillance testing will be compulsory only for unvaccinated students. Students may pick up self-administered Everlywell kits in the mailroom on the lower level of Gund Commons weekdays between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Please note that samples must be shipped to the lab on the same day they are collected, and the mailroom cannot accept samples for shipment after 2:30 p.m. Everlywell kits provide the accuracy of a PCR test with the convenience and efficiency of self-administration; the turnaround time for results is generally 24-48 hours from the time the sample reaches the lab. The Cox Health & Counseling Center will continue to offer medical evaluation and testing for all students reporting COVID-like symptoms, and close contacts will continue to be tested 3-5 days after exposure in accordance with public health guidance.

Isolation Housing

In addition to the College-owned housing designated for isolation, we have secured a block of rooms at a nearby hotel to use as isolation housing for the remainder of the academic year. To preserve isolation housing, students who test positive will be encouraged to complete their isolation at home if they live within driving distance and feel well enough to travel by private vehicle. If this is not possible, they will be moved to isolation housing as long as rooms are available. If cases exceed available isolation housing, as is currently the case, students will isolate in their room. A small number of rooms on and off campus have been reserved for roommates of isolating students who prefer to relocate temporarily. Isolation and relocation spaces will be allocated as available; regrettably, the local housing supply is limited and there are no additional rentals suitable for our use.

Students isolating on campus must remain in their assigned isolation space. They may leave only to pick up food from Peirce, use the restroom or get some fresh air in the immediate vicinity of their assigned space. At all times, they must remain masked and distanced from others. No guests are allowed in any isolation space, and isolated students are not permitted to enter any campus building besides Peirce and the Cox Health & Counseling Center, and they should not enter any local businesses. Failure to comply with isolation protocols is a violation of the Student Conduct Addendum and will result in disciplinary action.

Masks

Universal masking guidelines remain in place. Everyone, regardless of vaccination status, must wear a mask when in the presence of others indoors, including in the common spaces of residence halls and apartments. Students may unmask while actively eating, as may individuals actively exercising in the Lowry Center, including in the fitness center and during athletic practice and competition in accordance with NCAA guidelines. Partners or small groups engaged in indoor recreational activities involving close contact, such as three-on-three basketball, should remain masked.

Academics

Classes will continue in-person as scheduled. Faculty members who have opted for remote instruction during the past two weeks should return to in-person instruction by Wednesday, Sept 22. Given the likelihood of continued cases, faculty should remain prepared to engage with students in isolation and ensure that they have access to course materials necessary for making continued progress in class.

Dining

Peirce Hall will offer both dine-in and takeout options for students starting with breakfast on Thursday, Sept. 16. At this time, Peirce will not be open to employees for dine in or takeout meals. Private dining rooms will be used for general student seating and may not be reserved for private functions during meal times. Students dining in Peirce should distance as much as possible, continue masking whenever they are not actively eating and drinking, and limit their time in the dining hall to the extent possible. 

Students isolating or quarantining on campus will continue to pick up takeout meals from a designated location in Peirce Hall, apart from the servery (currently Peirce Pub, soon to be Peirce Lounge). This includes currently positive students as well as symptomatic students and identified close contacts, whether symptomatic or asymptomatic, as they await their test results. These students will use the door located in the north parking lot and will sign in when picking up meals to ensure that they are using the designated location.

Events and Gatherings

Events hosted by the Office of Student Engagement, student organizations, or other campus offices or departments will be limited to 50 participants outdoors, or to the adjusted capacity of the indoor event space. Event organizers must assign a compliance officer (student or staff) to ensure that participants adhere to all campus guidelines. Food and beverages may not be served at indoor events; if served at outdoor events, they should be distributed in individual servings. Exemptions to any guidelines, including capacity limits, must be approved by the Events Advisory Committee (events@kenyon.edu).

Gatherings in residential spaces remain limited to one guest per resident, up to a maximum of ten individuals. For example, an apartment with six residents may host up to four additional guests.

Travel Off Campus

Students should continue to limit their travel off campus to essential activities and take extra care given broader public health conditions. Case levels in Knox County remain at record levels and overall vaccination levels in the community remain low. 

We encourage students to exercise caution if they travel for October break and to take an Everlywell test upon their return. We still hope to welcome families to campus in late October, with modified programs to maintain a safe campus during their visit. The College is actively considering requiring entry testing for students returning from Thanksgiving break and for the spring semester; please watch for further communication on this.

Communications

Kenyon publishes COVID-19 case data every Monday, or more frequently as conditions require it. Feedback may be submitted to the COVID steering committee via this form. Comments and questions help the COVID steering committee refine Kenyon's COVID policies, identify communication gaps, and develop resources to assist the community in navigating evolving conditions. In general, the committee will respond to feedback via FAQs, campus news bulletins, or meetings with student, faculty and staff representatives.