With six members of the Hastings College community currently positive for the novel coronavirus disease and another 54 either isolating or in quarantine for reasons related to the virus, the college will pause some in-person instruction and all athletics this week.
The decision, announced Monday in a news release, will keep students on campus but change the way they attend classes for the rest of this week. In addition, all athletic practices and contests are suspended through Saturday.
The suspensions, which took effect at 4 p.m. Monday, currently are set to expire at 9 a.m. Sunday. The situation will be reviewed on Friday, however, so officials can determine if the suspensions need to continue.
According to the news release from the Hastings College Athletic Department, as of Monday the college had a total of 38 individuals isolating — including the six who had tested positive for the viral infection, known as COVID-19, and 32 others who had been tested and were awaiting results. An additional 22 people were in quarantine due to COVID-19 exposure.
The increased numbers of isolating and quarantined individuals prompted Monday’s procedural changes. The college has nearly 1,000 students enrolled this fall.
“As we monitor and follow our COVID plan, this increase in potential cases has us moving from orange to pink in our Phase Guideline Matrix,” the college said.
Under the pink designation, classes will be taught remotely, as through online means, and personal contact will be limited. Faculty members will communicate with students as to how laboratory and studio classes will meet — perhaps in small groups.
Campus buildings will remain open for students and employees but will be closed to outside visitors and guests.
Athletic practices, games and weight training all are suspended for the week. This includes Wednesday’s volleyball games at College of St. Mary, Wednesday’s men’s and women’s soccer games at Morningside College, Saturday’s football game at Morningside, Saturday’s home men’s and women’s soccer games versus Briar Cliff University, and Saturday’s home volleyball game versus Kansas Wesleyan University.
Other changes for this week will include reductions in density in the dining hall, with more takeout available. Students are being told to eat alone or with a roommate.
Student workers may be able to work remotely, but Fresh Ideas workers will continue to report for their duties in person.
Any student who chooses to go home while the campus is at the pink level won’t be allowed back until the campus is back to an orange designation.
The college’s COVID-19 Task Force will meet Friday and hopes to announce plans for Sunday and beyond around 3 p.m. that day, the news release said.
Monday’s Hastings College news came on the same day the South Heartland District Health Department announced 40 new lab-confirmed positive cases of the viral infection for the four-county district Friday through Monday.
A total of 54 South Heartland residents were confirmed positive last week (Sept. 20-26), compared to 53 in the previous week. Last week was the seventh straight in which the total number of new confirmed cases increased week over week.
The district’s positivity rate — that is, the total number of new positive cases as a percentage of the total number of test results received — jumped to 14.5% for the week, compared to 10.1% for the week prior.
Positivity rate by county included 14.2% in Adams, 19.4% in Clay, 14.3% in Webster and 11.1% in Nuckolls.
Three South Heartland residents have gone into a hospital for COVID-19 treatment in the past eight days.
“We urge residents to take action now to turn these trends around,” said Michele Bever, health department executive director, in a Monday evening news release. “The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 is still circulating in our district, and at increasingly higher levels. The simple things we can do to prevent the spread, and to protect each other and our community, are to wear a cloth face covering whenever possible, to keep physically distanced from others, to stay home when we have any symptoms, to avoid crowds, to wash our hands, and to disinfect frequently-touched surfaces.
“We are asking all residents to consider those around them and to take the ‘I’ll protect you, you protect me’ approach to COVID-19 prevention.”