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Healthy and safety update // COVID-19, wildfires, and sexual assault prevention

Posted by:
September 11, 2020

To: PLU Community
From: President’s Office

Dear PLU Community,

To prepare for the weekend, we have a few health and safety updates for all Lutes.

As you know, PLU will begin the 2020–21 school year with a staged approach to reopening. We are currently in Stage 3, based on the data from campus testing and continuing significant improvements in local metrics. Following our fourth week of testing—including large scale testing this week—we have had one positive case out of more than 1400 tests administered for returning students and some frontline faculty and staff. We will continue to evaluate campus and regional data, with particular attention in the days ahead to trends reflecting Labor Day, and PLU residence hall move-in activity and our continuing capacity for response.

One positive case of COVID-19
We have received notification that a resident in a South Hall apartment has tested positive for COVID-19 during our Quarantine-Test-Quarantine (QTQ) process. The student has had very limited contact with others in their residence hall and on campus, and has only been participating in remote classes. Their known close contact has been notified by the health department and is being advised on their 14-day quarantine. The resident is currently feeling well, and is moving to an off-campus location for the duration of their recovery. We wish our Lute family member a speedy and uncomplicated recovery!

What we need to do
Lutes, we all need to:

  • Wear a face mask
  • Stay at least six feet apart from others (even when outside)
  • Wash hands frequently
  • Socialize in groups of no more than five
  • Complete the daily Wellness Check-In
  • Be kind and hold each other accountable

For those students who have QTQ’ed—thank you! You’ve demonstrated your care for others with this important first step. The next steps require a longer commitment: to wearing masks, maintaining physical distance, keeping social groups to fewer than five people, and prioritizing the health and well-being of our campus community.

These next steps are equally vital, because your negative test reflects your health status only for the time in which the test was taken: the moment you left the testing facility (and came in contact with other people, surfaces, etc.), your status may have changed. In other words: just because your test came back negative does not mean that you can stop protecting yourself and others, nor does it mean that expectations for face coverings and physical distancing no longer apply to you. We continue to hold those expectations for all campus community members, and we will continue to enforce these standards because they matter to the health and well-being of all Lutes.

“Super-massive” smoke plume
Dozens of wildfires continue to burn in the forests, grasslands, and foothills of the Pacific Northwest, forcing evacuations and filling the air with smoke and soot that is only predicted to get worse through the weekend. Officials have warned of a “super-massive” smoke plume inching north from blazes in Oregon and California, which could inundate the South Sound. The state’s Department of Ecology forecasts unhealthy conditions today through Sunday. Unhealthy air quality means that everyone, and especially sensitive groups, should limit time spent outdoors and avoid strenuous activities.

It’s on us—it’s on Lutes
There is a lot going on now, Lutes—and we want to bring up one more challenging topic as we head into this first weekend of the academic year, another issue that will require all of us and our constant vigilance. Everyone plays a unique role in the prevention of sexual assault. We know that sexual assault on college campuses throughout the nation are more common at the start of the school year, and that we can create a culture of respect, equity, and safety at PLU by serving as active bystanders. Doing so requires reflection and progress in how we think and talk about sexual violence and consent.

PLU provides necessary tools and resources through the Center for Gender Equity that allow our community to uphold a commitment to safety for all. These tools will help us keep each other safe from sexual assault and violence—both on campus and in the greater community. Take the time to balance building your awareness with committing to action and positive change. And if you need help, please ask.

Let’s keep our community safe, Lutes!

Allan Belton