Monday, Nov. 2, 2020

Dear Students,

When we embarked on the fall semester, it was with the hope and intention that we would enjoy a safe, albeit unique, experience on campus. You have ultimately delivered on those hopes by following the health protocols that have kept our case counts relatively low. And you did so while navigating a continuous semester of study without a break. I am extremely proud of you. And I am so pleased we have made it to this point. Thank you for demonstrating what it means to Be Colonel.

As we approach the end of the semester and enjoy a much needed break, it is important that we begin to consider the ways that you can safely return to your loved ones at home. We also want to share initial details on your return to campus in January.

Returning home for the break

For those of you who live on campus, this may be the first time you are interacting with your families and friends in several months. And you may be unsure of how to do that in a way that protects yourself and others from the virus.

We strongly recommend that you limit your close contact with others starting 14 days before you leave campus.Know that this advice is focused on nonessential activities, like social or extracurricular events. It is important that you continue to attend classes as scheduled for as long as you are healthy and symptom-free.

When you are with your families at home, you are not likely to wear face coverings or maintain distance, which is why you should avoid any unnecessary exposure in the days preceding your departure. We urge you to do the following:

  1. Limit unnecessary travel: As COVID-19 cases rise in the region and state around us, it is important that we limit unnecessary travel. Maintain your routine. Attend classes and visit campus buildings as needed. Continue to report to your work or clinical site. But don’t take unnecessary risks by traveling to new locations. If you must travel, follow state quarantine guidelines in Pennsylvania and the areas being visited.
  2. Avoid new close contacts: Limit your close contacts to those who live with you and those in your immediate social circle who are taking the same precautions as you. Avoid establishing new close contacts during this 14-day period. We recognize that the end of the semester is often a time for celebration. Do not attend any gatherings that can spread the virus among our community or the community you are returning to.
  3. Follow all health and safety protocols: Continue to wear your mask in all areas of campus, with the exception of your own room. If members of the household that you will return to are at high risk, you may opt to wear a mask in the room or apartment that you share with others on campus as an added precaution. In addition, wash and sanitize your hands, maintain appropriate social distance and monitor your own health via the Wilkes Shield app.
  4. Interact virtually: Hold a study session via Zoom. Chat with your friends online and maintain contact with others via social media. Though we cannot gather in person, we can remain connected to our friends, classmates or clubs and organizations virtually.
  5. Talk to your family: In uncertain situations, it is important to be honest and open with one another. Talk to your family and develop a plan that makes everyone as comfortable as possible while enjoying your reunited time together.
  6. Get a flu shot. On top of the pandemic, it is also flu season. Get a free flu shot from Health and Wellness Services before you go home to help protect yourself during the cold months.

Any students who are in quarantine or isolation at the time of their planned departure should continue to follow those protocols. They will have campus accommodations provided to them until their quarantine or isolation period concludes. These arrangements will be based on individual student circumstances and the University will work directly with those impacted.

I also want to acknowledge our commuter students and their families. Students returning home each day had to do so with a fair amount of risk to others in their household. I want to thank you for all the ways you safely conducted yourself and for the care and consideration you have shown others.

Returning to campus in January

As we previously shared with you, we will start the spring semester one week later than planned on Jan. 25, 2021. We will welcome residential students back starting Jan. 23.

Students traveling to Wilkes from abroad will be required to quarantine for 14 days once they arrive in the United States. They must do so in Pennsylvania, or in a state that is not on the Commonwealth's list of recommended quarantine states. That means their anticipated date of return will be Jan. 10, 2021.

Students traveling to Wilkes from states with high instances of virus as listed on the Pennsylvania Department of Health website are also asked to quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus. You can do so at home as long as you take all necessary precautions as you travel to campus. Once on campus, students from quarantine states and those traveling from abroad will meet with Health and Wellness Services for an individual assessment and may receive a rapid test.

Mass testing is a topic that we continue to revisit. This fall, several factors informed our decision not to engage mass testing among members of the campus community who are not exhibiting symptoms. Above all, neither the CDC or our partners at Geisinger Health recommend it. This was mainly due to the availability of tests for those who are not ill and the timeline in which results are available. With the wait as long as seven days, the validity of the results due to possible re-exposure also comes into question.

We are very fortunate that the availability of tests is improving greatly. In addition, we have been able to secure a number of rapid tests that deliver results within 15 minutes. We anticipate that the Commonwealth will help enhance our supply of rapid tests in the weeks ahead. With these developments in mind, we continue to discuss the possibility of testing for contact tracing purposes in the spring semester.

Thank you in advance for your cooperation and care in keeping our communities safe. I wish you the very best in the final weeks of the semester.

Dr. Greg Cant