Fall Campus Update

Public Health Practices and Expectations

Everyone associated with the College shares in the responsibility for “protecting the hive.” Public health guidance is unanimous in advocating specific practices designed to prevent and limit the spread of the novel coronavirus that causes COVID-19. In keeping with this guidance, Kalamazoo College expects that all students, employees, and visitors to campus abide by the following measures without external enforcement. They are a condition of being on campus property.

Should any student, employee, or visitor fail to fulfill the following expectations, they may be removed and banned from campus, either temporarily or permanently.

  • Cloth face masks without a ventilation valve are required for everyone in shared interior campus spaces. Such masks must be worn properly so that the nose and mouth are both covered. Shared interior spaces include but are not limited to classrooms, laboratories, hallways, points of service, offices and all campus buildings. Occupants of spaces that are not shared (residence hall rooms, discrete offices) do not have to wear face coverings if they are in those spaces alone. Face coverings are required if another person enters those spaces.
  • Everyone is expected to maintain physical distance of six (6) feet from others while on campus, in interior and exterior spaces. Physical distancing markers will help remind people of this, and each person is expected to monitor this individually, as well. Note that this applies to areas where lines or queues have traditionally formed—the Book Club, the Richardson Room, Welles Dining Hall, the Mail Center, and the Bookstore, to name a few.
  • Frequent, thorough (20 seconds in duration) hand washing is expected. When soap and water are unavailable, hand sanitizer with 60%+ alcohol content can be used.
  • People who have symptoms of illness are expected to stay away from campus, regardless of academic or work commitments. Communication about such absences must be initiated by the person who is staying home to the appropriate instructor or supervisor.
  • Daily self-screening before going to campus must be completed. Information about the student self-screening process will be shared prior to the start of the fall quarter.
  • Residential students who are recommended for quarantine or isolation by campus medical providers must relocate to those spaces immediately, per the College’s process. A specific process has been established that will allow for immediate occupancy and meal delivery.
  • No large gatherings are permitted on campus.

While these expectations focus on campus behavior, the same principles apply to responsible behavior while away from campus. Avoiding large gatherings and frequent travel off campus will help ensure safety for the whole campus community. Please help us protect the hive!

Expectations about public health practices may change as more information about the novel coronavirus becomes available.

K’s Plan for Testing and Tracing

Following is the College’s plan and rationale for COVID testing. Should public health recommendations or other relevant factors change, the plan may also change.

Kalamazoo College’s plan for COVID PCR testing, informed by federal, state and local public health guidance, including from the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department, is to focus on students who are symptomatic or who have had known exposure to COVID. This approach is part of the College’s overall strategy of emphasizing physical distancing, ubiquitous wearing of masks, and hand hygiene, all of which are proven to minimize the spread of the virus.

These preventative measures—distancing, masks, and hygiene—are the primary strategy for the College’s response to the virus.

Testing for symptomatic and exposed students is aligned with public health guidance and is reasonable given the current demands on testing resources. The supply chain for tests and related supplies is currently unreliable, as is the time for test results to become available. Receiving results more than 24-48 hours after the test makes them of little value for immediate response and disease mitigation.

Currently, labs cannot guarantee timely results, so we cannot rely on the data from them for quick response by the College.

Differences in Diagnostic Tests

It’s helpful to understand the differences between diagnostic tests for the virus.

Antigen Point of Care Testing is a form of rapid testing that tests for proteins from the virus in nose and throat secretions. Antigen Point of Care testing as an asymptomatic screening measure is not widely endorsed by the medical community, and will play a limited role in the testing protocol at K. Rapid tests, which take the least amount of time for processing, can result in a misleading number of “false negatives,” which may lead a person to believe that they do not have the virus when they do. Such a conclusion may encourage risky behavior which may lead to additional spread of the illness.

PCR tests, on the other hand, look for the genetic material of the coronavirus. The test uses a technology called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which greatly amplifies the viral genetic material if it is present. It is considered to be a highly reliable test when active infection is present. Test samples are typically sent away to a lab, which can take multiple days to process.

In either case, testing provides an indicator of a single point in time. A person may be negative at the time of a test and become infected shortly thereafter.

These facts together suggest that we exercise great caution in using tests as a primary tool to mitigate the spread of the virus.

Both PCR and rapid Antigen testing will be available to students, and campus medical clinicians will determine when and which test is warranted. We will prioritize our student health center personnel and community testing supplies for testing symptomatic individuals and close contacts of positive COVID cases, and will supply additional local resources for further testing of students as needed.

The College, along with the county health department, will continue to monitor information related to testing. If data about testing and/or the context (supply chain, laboratory demands, testing recommendations) change, we’ll reconsider our strategy. For now, preventative measures are the most reliable in containing and preventing the spread of the virus. As previously noted, daily self-screening for symptoms will also be required.

Contact Tracing

Contact tracing for students who test positive for COVID-19 will be conducted by the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services (KCHCS) Department.

The Kalamazoo College Student Health Center staff are also trained in contact tracing, and will provide assistance to the county, if needed. Contact tracing entails interviews with the infected person and a review of their recent activities.

People at risk for infection based on their exposure to the infected person will then be contacted. Not everyone who has been exposed to an infected person is at risk for the disease. The nature and duration of the exposure are important in determining who will be contacted. For example, passing a positive person in a hallway while masked is of less concern than being in the same room without appropriate distance and a mask for 30 minutes. The College will rely on the expertise and resources of the KCHCS for contact tracing.

Changes to the Fall Calendar

The one-day Fall Break, currently scheduled for October 16, will be removed from the academic calendar. Classes will be held as scheduled on that date. Removing the fall break will discourage students from leaving Kalamazoo for a long weekend in the middle of term and traveling to areas that may be hot spots for the coronavirus.

Additionally, the College will not hold a Family Weekend in the fall and Homecoming will be postponed until April 23-25, 2021, so that we may limit visitors to the campus.

Campus Parking Update

For the coming academic year, students may request parking permits without charge. All parking permits must be registered online using the WebAdvisor. First-year students that have opted out of on-campus housing are eligible to apply for a commuter parking permit.

Please note that the issuance of a parking permit does not guarantee you a place to park on the campus lots. The permit only grants you permission to park in an authorized lot. However, we do anticipate more parking availability in lots and streets due to reduced staff on campus and fewer in-person classes. Please watch your student email for more information about parking, or visit the Motor Vehicle and Parking Policy.