Is there a plan in case the virus flares up again? What would be the trigger for having students vacate campuses again and move from in-person instruction to remote delivery only?
Penn State is prepared to be nimble and responsive based on the latest information, monitoring and evolving virus infection rates. The University will employ strategies to create an effective detection and management system for all of its campuses, including testing, contact tracing, and monitoring and reacting to trends in data at the community, state and national levels to see if a pattern is emerging so leaders can act accordingly.
All classes that are planned to have in-person meetings will have contingency plans for reverting to remote instruction modalities if health circumstances require ending in-person learning earlier than Nov. 20. All future decisions will be based on the best available public-health information, in the interest of the safety and well-being of Penn State students, faculty and staff.
A number of factors may lead to additional distancing measures or adjustments to campus-based residential course delivery. These factors include changes in addition to the virus caseload of a campus or region such as community spread, quarantine and isolation capacity, a county’s status under the governor’s red-yellow-green guidelines, the capacity of the local health care system, community compliance with health and safety protocols, and additional risks such as the onset of an early virulent flu season. Faculty experts in epidemiology, medicine and public health are continuously monitoring county, state and local disease data, which will allow the University to respond to any changes in the pandemic that would require proactive steps to mitigate and manage any potential outbreak. Decisions about potential changes will be made on a campus-by-campus basis, taking into consideration guidance from public health officials.
As Penn State planned for a return to campus and work, University leaders and the University’s 16 coronavirus task groups developed numerous contingency strategies to support health and safety, including a number of “off and on ramp” scenarios that will allow Penn State to quickly respond and continue its teaching and learning mission if changes are needed during the semester.
These scenarios focus on health and safety, flexibility to change course as circumstances require, continuing to provide critical services, and following local and state COVID guidance and requirements. Examples of possible off-ramps include suspending use of specific buildings and spaces, quarantining a program or cohort, suspending or curtailing some in-person programs, quarantining residents of a specific hall, pausing in-person classes for a defined period, pausing programs and reducing operations at a specific campus, and transitioning all programs and classes at a campus to remote delivery. These scenarios include one in which Penn State must send students home from a campus and revert to remote learning. If our public health advisers become concerned that it is no longer safe for students and employees to be on our campuses, we are prepared to quickly take action and change course.