Posted August 12, 2020

Susquehanna’s Fall 2020 Safety Measures for Everyone’s Health

Susquehanna University is sharing a list of intentional actions to maintain an in-person educational experience for students to the maximum extent possible. In light of the pandemic, thousands of faculty and staff hours and millions of dollars in equipment, supplies and training have been invested to prepare for fall 2020, as well as to enhance the experience for anyone needing to study remotely. These steps individually are not as effective as they are in combination, creating a compounded effect.

Concurrently, the university is reliant on the efforts of each individual student, faculty and staff member to follow health and safety practices prior to and throughout the semester.

We continue surveying the latest medical research, public health advice and best practices relating to the pandemic. As scientific knowledge about COVID-19 and its prevention evolves, so will Susquehanna’s course of action — with guidance from federal, state and local public health experts and our partners at Geisinger.

 

Testing and Tracing

  • COVID-19 tests are required for every student, faculty and staff member, as well as employees of our partners who provide dining, bookstore and cleaning services. Tests must be negative prior to their arrival to campus for fall 2020.
  • Committed to test campus wastewater outflow at multiple spots at least three times a week to provide early warning of the presence of the virus. A positive result will trigger additional testing of people.
  • Susquehanna will work closely with the state and local health officials for contact tracing, identification and quarantine of all persons exposed to COVID-19.
  • Student Life and the Student Health Center will manage students with COVID-19 symptoms, diagnosis or known exposure, including placement in isolation or quarantine housing, mental health support, support for basic needs and supplies, and ongoing monitoring while isolated.

Space Redesigns

  • The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania guidelines call for reducing room capacity numbers to 50% or less. Susquehanna has decided to reduce capacity in public spaces to approximately 40% as an added precaution.
  • More than a dozen spaces have been converted to allow more academic spaces. The chapel, theater and various meeting rooms will be used as class spaces to allow greater physical distancing.
  • A large tent is being constructed on Smith Lawn with a floor and open sides to safely accommodate larger gatherings and academic endeavors. It is divided into four zones, each with 30 chairs. Besides as an outdoor classroom space, it can be reserved for other university small-group activities, like music rehearsals.
  • Redesigned our dining spaces.
    • Physical distancing, including while standing in lines and redesigned traffic flow, that include entrance and exit changes.
    • Added grab-and-go options and removed all self-service areas.
    • Greatly reduced seating capacity of existing dining facilities by removing or altering furniture. Evert Dining Hall, for example, will be reduced from 550 capacity to 238 dining seats.
    • Added dining spaces. Several meeting rooms and a significant part of the field house were converted to provide more eating space for 240 students. Six small dining tents each with 16 chairs were added to create outdoor dining settings with open air.
    • The Starbucks lounge has been relocated to the Shearer Dining Rooms.
  • Painted 10’ circles on the lawn outside the Degenstein Center to establish safe areas for students and staff to sit outside.
  • Acrylic barriers have been added to transactional spaces where individuals could come in close contact with one another.
  • Some stairways have been designated one way only to improve physical distancing. Also, some building entrances have been revised.
  • Limited one person to an elevator at a time.
  • Reduced the density of students living in residence halls to allow more physical distancing and arranged isolation/quarantine spaces.
  • Many athletic playing spaces have been made available for recreational use to all students since competitive sports have been canceled or postponed for the fall.

Health and Hygiene

  • Revised the fall semester calendar to reduce the risk of infection associated with students returning to campus following break travel, while allowing up to 13 consecutive weeks of on-campus instruction and activities.
  • Staggered start times of classes to reduce multiple classes in one area of a building at the same time — with the goal of reducing high volumes of students congregating in hallways prior to class.
  • Implemented three phases for moving in students to cautiously reopen campus without overwhelming new safety measures.
  • Required students to sign a pledge detailing our COVID-19 safety protocols and our expectations of their compliance with these protocols.
  • Instituted procedures to swiftly deal with students and employees not complying with university safety procedures.
  • Quarantining students for 14 days arriving for the fall semester who are coming from highly affected areas, regardless if they are showing symptoms.
  • Prohibiting guests and outside visitors to campus.
    • Redesigned visit experience for prospective students to allow them to see campus in smaller groups. 
    • Requiring approved vendors to follow safety protocols.
    • Canceled events and competitions open to the public.
  • Conducted studies of air volume and flow of all common spaces including classrooms, meeting rooms, dining space, exercise facilities and offices. As a result of airflow studies:
    • Further reductions to some room capacities.
    • Increase airflows. Operating the HVAC systems 24/7 and increasing air conditioning when needed to maximize the effect of ventilation and air treatment.
    • Enhanced air filtration. For example, some classrooms were equipped with portable HEPA filters to increase air filtration, and music practice rooms and double-occupancy residence hall rooms were equipped with small UV-C units designed to destroy viruses and other pathogens in the air.
  • Over 11,000 signs being placed around campus to marshal traffic flow, maintain physical distancing, control occupancy and remind everyone of good hygiene practices.
  • Launching a “Healthy Hawks” campaign and various other communications efforts to reinforce good habits.
  • Requiring face coverings in all common indoor spaces and outdoors when physical distancing not possible.
  • Making disposable masks, hand sanitizer and disinfecting wipes available. 
  • Installing temperature self-check stations around campus.
  • Improved cleaning processes.
    • Will clean high-touch areas daily in addition to the overnight cleaning of offices, classrooms, and workspaces. 
    • High-volume restrooms will be cleaned daily and disinfected twice a day. All common area and semi-private restrooms on campus will be cleaned and disinfected on a regular schedule with supplemental cleaning wipes provided for personal use to disinfect surfaces as needed.
    • Added multiple backpack sanitation misting systems to supplement existing mobile fogging systems, as well as have readily available massive amounts of disinfecting solutions.
    • Devised enhanced sanitation and cleaning procedures and training for our facilities management staff. 

Remote Learning Enhancements

  • Allowing students the option to study remotely for the fall semester.
  • In addition to providing all students remote options, the university is helping attend to the technology needs of students studying online.
  • Purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars of software and hardware to facilitate online and hybrid instruction. 
  • Providing training to all faculty to enhance their skills for online pedagogy. 

Sustained Staffing

  • Maintaining a doctor as well as other healthcare staff for the on-campus Student Health Center and a 24-hour nurse helpline.
  • Augmented mental health and counseling support services for students.
  • Providing enhanced personal protective equipment for faculty and staff to help them stay healthy.
  • Increased telemedicine services for physical and mental health care for employees.
  • Offering financial support to employees in need through the Caring Colleagues Fund and grocery gift cards.
  • Providing flexibility for faculty and staff to work remotely or adjust work schedules.
  • Implemented a supplemental COVID-19 leave option to provide additional paid time for employees with their own illness or to care for a family member(s) who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms.