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2021 Fall Return COVID Guidelines

Greetings GCC Community,

 

Wherever you may be, we pray you are well and enjoying opportunities for rest and reflection. While we are grateful for the rhythms best found during the summer months, our campus is far too quiet without you and we long for your return.

 

The Goal

 

Throughout last year our target was to remain on-campus in-person, and by God’s grace we accomplished that goal. This year our goal is to return to pre-pandemic normalcy wherever possible. Outlined below you will find our return to campus plan and protocols for the 2021-2022 academic year.  In short, we believe that if we start well, isolate and report symptoms to Zerbe promptly, conduct thorough contact tracing, and work together we can enjoy the experiences that make this place so special.  While we realize the need may arise from time to time for us to adjust our plan, it is our great hope that these steps will result in a safe and especially rewarding semester together.

 

Ensuring a Safe Return to Campus

 

It is essential that we make every effort to minimize the presence of COVID-19 on campus to start the semester.  As a result, we will again be requiring students to conduct PCR or antigen testing prior to their arrival on campus.  Please review the details below concerning testing and more.  It is our hope that this information will aid in your preparation for the Fall semester.

 

Students enrolled for eight or more credit hours in the Fall of 2021 must provide one of the following: 

  • Proof of a Negative PCR or antigen test taken within seven (7) Days of one’s planned arrival to campus
    • Please use the following link to locate no-cost testing options
    • Antibody test cannot be used as a substitute.
    • Those who have begun the vaccination process but have not yet reached immunization (two weeks beyond the final dose of a vaccine) must submit a negative test result obtained within seven (7) days of their planned arrival.
    • Please look for an email this coming week with the subject line “Where to submit COVID documentation.”  In it you will find a dedicated link for negative test results.

 

  • Proof of a Positive COVID-19 test taken within 90 Days of one’s planned arrival
    • Positive test results dated more than 90 days prior to scheduled arrival will not be accepted.  While we would welcome an extension of this 90 day window, this is the CDC, and thus the state’s, quarantine requirement for those who have had a previous positive COVID test.
    • Antibody tests also cannot be accepted in the place of a positive COVID-19 test.
    • Please look for an email this coming week with the subject line “Where to submit COVID documentation.”  In it you will find a dedicated link for positive test results due to summer illness.
    • Please note this documentation will also be used to exempt you from quarantine for 90 days following your original testing date.

 

  • Verification of Vaccination
    • Students who submit this verification must show they have received the full dose of a vaccine with Emergency Use Authorization from the Food and Drug Administration to be exempted from testing at this time.
    • Those who have begun the vaccination process but have not yet reached immunization (two weeks beyond the final dose of a vaccine) must submit a negative test result obtained within seven (7) days of their planned arrival.
      • You may later provide documentation of your completed vaccination using Covidupdate@gcc.edu and you will be exempted from quarantine effective 14 days after your last dose.  
    • Please look for an email this coming week with the subject line “Where to submit COVID documentation.”  In it you will find a dedicated link for submitting this verification of vaccination. 
    • Please note this documentation will also be used to exempt you from quarantine.
    • How To Locate a Vaccination Site in My Area

 

Students are not eligible to return to campus until they have completed this process.  

 

All records submitted to the College will be kept confidential and will only be accessible to a limited number of staff who are directly involved in carrying out the College’s COVID-19 protocols.

 

*Note: While dual-enrolled high school students and the very small number of those scheduled to take less than 8 credit hours are exempt from testing, they should pay close attention to the non-testing portion of this email.

 

Special Note for Those Pursuing Testing

 

While testing (and vaccinations) will aid tremendously in our effort to establish a healthy start to the semester, maintaining healthy habits in the days before arrival is just as imperative. As such, all residential and commuter students who have not been fully vaccinated are asked to be vigilant in social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and unnecessary travel, limiting contacts, wearing masks when appropriate, frequently washing hands, and taking any other measure necessary in the intervening time between their testing and arrival to campus. This is especially important given the very recent elevation in COVID-19 cases in parts of the United States. Our efforts in January were effective, but they also affirmed the importance of taking these additional precautionary steps.  Taking your COVID test closer to your departure may also limit possible exposure, but please leave yourself room to receive your results before departing. Vaccinated students are also encouraged to be vigilant.

 

Safe Travel

 

We would ask that you not return to campus if you or someone with whom you have had close contact are experiencing symptoms associated with COVID-19.  Remain at home and notify us of your condition (we will provide a notification link in a future email).  Please also submit your name and information on the COVID-19 portal found on the Student page of myGCC. Doing so is the only way in which a student can obtain a Provost’s Excuse and attend class remotely until he or she has been cleared to return to campus. We’ll gladly notify your professors and help with your delayed return should you find yourself in this situation.

 

If your return requires travel by air, bus, or train, we ask that you take extra measures to remain safe and healthy while traveling (maintaining distance from others, washing hands frequently, not touching your face, and possibly wearing a double or filtered mask).

 

Special Considerations for Timing

 

For Vaccinations

 

At present, vaccinations with the necessary Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have different procedures for administering doses. Students who are pursuing a vaccine with multiple doses should take into account the amount of time necessary between doses. Per CDC guidelines, an individual is considered immune once two weeks have elapsed since their final dose has been administered. In the event a student returns to campus prior to receiving the final dose of the vaccine, that student must submit documentation of a negative PCR test result taken within seven (7) days of his or her arrival to campus. Such vaccination will, however, limit the student’s need to quarantine following the completion of the two-week window following final dosage. The College has confirmed vaccinations are available in Grove City at Rite Aid, Rx Xpress, Hometown Pharmacy (inside County Market), and Walmart.

 

For Testing

 

In order to establish a healthy baseline for our campus community, testing should take place within seven (7) days of one’s planned arrival with results being received by the College prior to arrival. Students are encouraged to contact their testing provider to determine how far in advance to complete their individual testing. This is particularly important for those in communities where PCR test results may be significantly delayed. 

 

Campus Procedures Post-Return

  • Contact Tracing
    • For Vaccinated Students
      • Per guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH), students who are two weeks beyond receiving their final dose of a vaccine will not need to quarantine in the event they are in direct exposure to a COVID-positive individual.
      • Per these same guidelines, vaccinated students who are exposed to a COVID-positive individual will also not need to be tested unless they develop symptoms associated with COVID-19.
    • For Unvaccinated Students
      • Per guidelines set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PADOH), unvaccinated students will need to quarantine if they are identified as a direct exposure to a COVID-positive individual.
      • The exposed student will be tested using molecular testing on day five post-exposure. In the event the test result is negative, and the student develops no later symptoms, the exposed student will quarantine for a total of seven full days post-exposure with release coming on the morning of the eighth day post-exposure.
  • Isolation & Quarantine
    • Isolation of Positive Students
      • Students who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate for the requisite amount of time before returning to their normal activities. A COVID-positive student may return home to isolate or remain on campus in one of the housing areas designated for these purposes if space is available (priority given to those from further distances).
      • Those who test positive must be cleared by a medical professional before they can be cleared from isolation.
    • Quarantine of Unvaccinated Exposed Students
      • Students who have been directly exposed to a COVID-positive person (within six feet for more than 15 minutes) will quarantine in their residence hall rooms for the requisite amount of time, most likely seven days with a negative molecular or PCR test on or after day five post-exposure. The College has worked with our food service provider to ensure students quarantining in their room can pick up meals in a safe and convenient manner.
      • Vaccinated students who are exposed to a COVID-positive person will not be required to quarantine.
  • Testing
    • Testing will still be available at the Zerbe Health and Wellness Center for students who are symptomatic.
    • Zerbe will work with exposed students on testing arrangements.
  • COVID-19 Portal
    • A student who has to miss in-person class time for a COVID-19-related reason (whether positive, symptomatic, or exposed), must enter his or her information into the COVID-19 portal, found under the Student tab on myGCC. This is the only way to receive the necessary Provost’s Excuse to be permitted to attend classes online.
    • Students are reminded not to attend classes, et cetera, if they are ill with symptoms consistent with COVID-19. Please err on the side of caution, as the failure to do so can be consequential.   
  • Masking
    • On June 28, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania eliminated its mandate requiring individuals to wear masks as a mitigation effort against COVID-19.
    • Vaccinated Students
      • Per CDC and PADOH guidelines, vaccinated individuals do not need to mask whether indoors or outside.
    • Unvaccinated Students
      • Per CDC and PADOH guidelines, masking is recommended indoors and where social distancing is not possible.
      • Therefore, masks are not required at this time but are recommended for students who are unvaccinated or have not tested positive for COVID-19 within the past 90 days.
    • Students are encouraged to bring masks in case they become ill, or in the event we must comply with a future government mandate.
      • In preparation for either of these circumstances, students seeking permission to wear a face shield for medical reasons should complete this form as soon as possible and provide medical documentation for this semester to Mr. Joe Cirelli (at jacirelli@gcc.edu) regardless of whether they received permission in the past. 
  • Note On Secondary Exposures
    • In an effort to curtail the spread of COVID-19 on our campus last year, the College instituted a secondary exposure protocol wherein students who were in close contact with a person directly exposed to COVID-19 would quarantine in their room until the direct exposure received a negative test result. In reviewing the spread of COVID-19 on our campus, we determined this step is no longer necessary.
  • COVID-19 Symptoms
  • Precautions to Help Prevent Spread of the Virus

 

We want to thank you in advance for doing your part to help establish the healthy baseline needed if we hope to return to normalcy.  While there are many competing views, and much developing science, regarding COVID 19 that make navigating this process more than difficult, we celebrate the fact that we are in this together.  Please know we desire for you, and our community, to thrive this coming semester.  With that said, we have not entered into these decisions lightly and ask that you provide us with grace and understanding as we work to serve you and our community well.

Please also know the College’s Health and Safety Committee will continue to revisit our policies and procedures and may make changes as we work together to navigate the year ahead.  It is our great hope that these efforts will result in a healthy, full, and meaningful year together.

 

In Him,

Mr. H.

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