VP of student affairs Hoffmann Harding, VP of campus safety Seamon: Update on initial COVID cases

Note: Dated communications are archived here for reference, but may not reflect the most up-to-date information available.

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Dear undergraduate, graduate, and professional students,

Congratulations on a successful start of classes! While we may not write to you every week, please know we are committed to keeping you well informed. Today, we have important updates to share.

Thank you for embracing our health and safety practices. Mask wearing and physical distancing have been outstanding in class and at University sponsored events.

On the other hand, the University community received our first positive COVID-19 cases. We will update this dashboard daily at noon. Knowing this disease can carry serious health concerns for members of our campus community, we are providing trends to you in a transparent manner so we can work together to prevent further transmission.

Information About our First Cases

The University is committed to protecting the privacy of our students, faculty, and staff, so we cannot share names or identifiable information about positive cases.

However, we can share with you that the vast majority of the positive cases appearing in the University’s dashboard this week can be traced to a SINGLE off-campus gathering. The students involved were forthcoming in sharing information with contact tracers. They shared who they interacted with, when, and for how long. They also indicated individuals at the gathering were both outside and inside, together for some time, not wearing masks, in a crowded space, and drinking.

While deeply worried that an event occurred that resulted in positive cases, we are grateful to these students for their candor and cooperation with contact tracers. Thanks to the information they shared, our community can quarantine the appropriate individuals, the students involved will learn from this situation, and together we can prevent this result from happening again. 

What We Learned and What You Should Know

Handling these initial cases has helped us understand what questions are arising from students. It has also helped us adjust a few of our practices to better protect our campus community. Here are answers to your questions and new updates:

  • Thanks to great partnerships, the University has ample PCR and antigen tests available at our University Testing Center at Notre Dame Stadium. Diagnostic PCR test results have been received within 48 hours or less. While antigen test results are much faster (<30 minutes), they cannot definitively determine if a patient is negative for COVID-19. Antigen tests are, however, highly reliable for diagnosing positive cases.
  • A University Health Services (UHS) medical provider will determine whether you need a diagnostic test and what type. Please follow the advice on your daily health check pass about when you should consult with UHS. Our providers order tests based on either primary symptoms or 2 or more days of secondary symptoms of COVID-19. When the clinical circumstances warrant it, UHS providers err on the side of ordering a test.
  • The University’s trained contact tracers will identify and notify close contacts who need to quarantine. Students must respond promptly to contact tracers and share complete information with them. Details provided by students to contact tracers will not be shared for disciplinary reasons. The amount of time you spent with someone, when, and under what conditions determines whether you will be considered a close contact and need to be tested. Casual exposure, especially if you are wearing a mask and practicing physical distancing, means you probably do not need a test and will not need to quarantine. If you know a friend who has tested positive for COVID-19 and believe you had sustained, direct contact with that person, please call UHS at 574-631-0603.
  • If you are identified as a close contact and asked to quarantine, the University will test you at multiple points based on the latest medical advice. Thanks to collaboration with local public health officials, yesterday we were able to expand a testing protocol that can reduce quarantine time from 14 days to as few as 7 days. This protocol only applies to asymptomatic patients and involves a combination of PCR and antigen tests.
  • A variety of support and resources are available to students in quarantine and isolation. There are also ways you can help a friend who is in quarantine or isolation.
  • Off-campus undergraduate students who have tested positive and live with other students will now isolate at the University’s isolation units, unless an exception is granted. Off-campus graduate and professional students may isolate in their own apartment or home.
  • Regardless of location, students must follow the University’s guidelines for quarantine and isolation. Students who fail to comply face emergency involuntary withdrawal from the University, and may also be referred to the University conduct process.

Moving Forward

We hope this information is useful to our community. In general, it has been a terrific week filled with the energy and excitement of being back together. The care and concern of the Notre Dame community has been displayed through widespread adherence to our health and safety practices. We are very proud of how students, faculty, and staff have committed to make this semester successful.

Yet, the risks of transmitting this virus are high. Even a single instance of ignoring our health and safety protocols had a significant impact.

Together, through both encouragement and holding one another accountable, we can avoid another incident that places our community at risk. Please, whether you are on or off-campus, gather outdoors, and congregate in small groups, always:

  1. Wear a mask.
  2. Observe physical distance.
  3. Wash your hands.
  4. Complete your daily health check.

 Sincerely,

Erin Hoffmann Harding

Vice President for Student Affairs

Mike Seamon

Vice President for Campus Safety & University Operations