Students - November 6, 2020

Dear Campus Community,

Before we wrap up in-person instruction and our attention turns to the Thanksgiving holiday in a couple of weeks, I wanted to reach out and share some details of our COVID-19 management plans for the return to learning in January.

Students attending in-person classes and/or living on campus will be required to get tested for COVID-19 prior to returning to campus

Trustees were briefed today on Student Affairs’ and senior leadership’s recommendation for pre-entry COVID-19 testing for students who are taking in-person classes and/or living in the residence halls. Students will be required to present a negative test result for a test taken 72 hours in advance of their return date/first in-person class. (Online-only students will not be required to submit test results.) Students will need to quarantine two days prior to their test and continue to quarantine until their scheduled return to campus date. The benefit of return testing is prevention of positive students from returning to campus and exposing others to the virus.

Expanded testing makes this requirement possible
I am sure you are aware of the rise in cases in our state and elsewhere in the country. Cold weather will undoubtedly drive individuals indoors, and the upcoming holidays will increase transmission risk. You likely know, too, that SC DHEC has expanded mobile testing sites (like the one at our Coliseum) throughout the state, making it easier for students to find free testing options in their community. You will recall such testing was not as readily available during summer leading up to the fall semester. As a result of all of these circumstances, senior leadership has agreed that the implementation of return testing is a good idea.

Students being informed now
Students are being informed of this requirement now so they have ample time to identify permanent and mobile testing options for their test date in January. Residential students also are being informed that the requirement for return testing means that we must change how Residence Life handles closing the residence halls for the fall semester. A detailed message from Residence Life is being sent to residential students today on what they can expect.

Continued diligence is a must
We know that such testing is an effort of risk mitigation but not a guarantee of campus safety. Testing is still a snapshot in time, and a person can become symptomatic after testing. However, we hope that students (as well as faculty and staff) will take the advice of the CDC in limiting their exposure to others over the holidays, avoiding large gatherings, and continuing masking, hand-washing and social distancing. SC DHEC recommends testing at least monthly for anyone out and about in the community for any reason.

Student Affairs will take the lead
Residence Life and Health Services will lead the coordination of the testing results management as well as the necessary move-in health screenings in January like those we required in the fall prior to move-in. Detailed information will be provided by email from Health Services so all students will know how to upload their COVID-19 testing results to the Medicat portal. (Students, it is very important for you to monitor your email for instructions in this regard.) Student Affairs will monitor enrollment to notify the students who meet the requirements for testing (in-person classes and/or residential living). Residential students who do not test/provide results will be prohibited from moving in, and any student who does not adhere to testing will face disciplinary action.

Is expanding testing an option?
We are strongly encouraging everyone to take advantage of the free testing available at the Coliseum or other locations in the community, but at this time, we are not requiring a negative test result for faculty and staff to return to work after the winter break. As we move into December and have more information about the prevalence of the virus in our community, we may consider additional testing, including of faculty and staff, but our emphasis now is on students who, once they return, will be more likely to be in close contact with others in classrooms and/or the residence halls. We also are considering surveillance testing (random sampling of the campus community) in the spring and exploring the details of how that might work. More on these options in time.

I hope you find this update of our planning helpful. Please direct any questions you may have to Shelia Burkhalter, Jackie Concodora, or Howard Seidler, depending on the nature of the inquiry.



George W. Hynd
Interim President