Calvin University issues home residence policy amid “alarming” increase in COVID-19 cases on campus

GRAND RAPIDS, MI – The University of Calvin has instructed all students, faculty, and staff to remain in place for the next two weeks after the “alarmingly rapid increase” in positive coronavirus cases reported last week.

The university issued a 14-day “enhanced physical distance” policy, which began at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 9, according to an email sent to students and staff Monday night. Students, staff, and faculty at Calvin are expected to avoid gatherings and stay where they live, except for school and work.

The directive expires on Feb. 23, but can be extended depending on the rate of university positivity at the time, said Michael Le Roy, president of Calvin.

The president said there had been an “extraordinary rise and spread” of COVID-19 among Calvin students in recent days, attributed by Le Roy to the fact that some students had ignored social distance policies.

As of Monday night, there were 41 active cases at Calvin University, compared to only five active cases reported a week ago, on February 1, according to the university’s data dashboard.

There are 35 cases among university students, four in the case of off-campus students, and two in the case of employees. 119 students are quarantined after being identified as a close link in a positive case.

University executives attribute the recent increase in cases to the fact that some students are less diligent about health and safety protocols and the delay in reporting symptoms of COVID.

“We have seen evidence that social gatherings have led to increased close contact, failure to get six feet away, and disregard for restrictions on living in common areas,” said Sarah Visser, co-chair of the Calvin COVID Response Team.

“While it’s understandable that people get tired of the current situation, the virus becomes even more dangerous when we get involved loosely.”

Students can attend classes in person over the 14-day period, but Le Roy said professors will inform students whether they will continue their classes face-to-face or remotely over the next two weeks.

The policy prohibits off-campus and off-campus gatherings. There are exceptions that allow students to leave their place of residence, including:

  • Participation in personal lessons
  • Taking a meal from the dining room
  • Use of university internet or study places
  • Carrying out research or employment that must be done in person
  • Participation in a COVID-19 screening or diagnostic test
  • Medical care

University restaurants will only be open for admissions, students must dine in their room. According to an email sent to students, all public seats at the university will be closed.

Some athletic teams have been suspended due to positive cases and close ties, Le Roy said.

Athletic activities are currently evaluated on a team-by-team basis, and intramural sports are paused for the next 14 days.

Students who do not comply with the order to stay at home can be subject to disciplinary action, Le Roy said.

“We need to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in our community so that we can continue to live and study together at the university this semester,” he wrote in the email.

According to the data dashboard, a total of 379 positive COVID-19 cases have occurred in Calvin since Aug. 1.

Calvin issued the stay order independently of the Kent County Department of Health, although university officials notified the health department of the two-week directive, Visser said.

A similar home order was recently issued by the Washtenaw County Department of Health at the University of Michigan, which expired on Feb. 7. The recommendation was addressed to UM undergraduate, graduate, and professional students enrolled this winter who were at or on campus in Washtenaw County.

Washtenaw County health officials cited a significant increase in the number of younger residents as the reason for the order, as well as a number of identified cases of COVID-19 variant B.1.1.7 at UM.

Grand Valley State University also issued a similar home residence instruction during the fall semester, resulting in an increase in cases at the time.

The emergency 14-day stay at home began Sept. 17 and ended Oct. 1, but was extended for another two weeks with less stringent restrictions to allow health officials to continue to monitor the spread of the virus among students.

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