Messiah student tests positive for COVID-19; new FAQs for 03.29.20

This morning, the Engle Center was notified of Messiah College’s second positive case of COVID-19, an undergraduate student who is currently recovering at home. The student’s last day on campus was Friday, March 13. Earlier today, the College notified and provided instruction to the individuals who live and work in this student’s campus residence.

For future notification of positive cases, the College will continue to privately notify persons who are believed to have had close contact with that individual while he/she was potentially contagious and still living/working on campus.

However, now that Messiah has two confirmed cases of COVID-19, a current employee and a student, the likelihood of exposure becomes more expansive and difficult to track. As a result, the College is now asking all students and employees—regardless of whether they are living/working on or off campus—to follow the same precautions that the Engle Center has been advising for those who have had known potential contact with a COVID-19 positive person. They are:

  • Continue to monitor your health—specifically to monitor for symptoms of fever, cough and shortness of breath and to check your temperature twice daily. (Diarrhea has now also been noted to be a frequently reported symptom.) Medical staff is reminding everyone that it is important to be aware of your symptoms, but there is no need to become overly anxious.
    • If you develop any symptoms, call the Engle Center at 717-691-6035, or call your primary care provider for direction and to discuss if you are a candidate for testing.
    • If you are tested somewhere other than the Engle Center, and you receive a positive test result, you are additionally asked to notify the Engle Center.
  • Continue physical distancing and to limit your exposure to others, particularly those who might be at greatest risk—those who are immunocompromised, elderly, those with chronic health conditions, etc.
  • And finally, to continue with good hygiene practices and wipe down “high touch” surfaces frequently. For more information, see the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/guidance-prevent-spread.html

Below are several additional FAQs that Messiah has received from the campus community since yesterday’s announcement. The College will continue to provide regular updates and, as always, continue to visit our emergency website at www.messiah.edu/emergency for the most recent information.

COVID-19 Positive Case FAQs

Does having positive COVID-19 case confirmations mean that the College will be adjusting its student move-out schedule that starts on April 1?

Messiah’s leadership team and residence life staff are currently processing potential changes to the previously announced student move-out dates and procedures. Any changes to this timeline and process will be announced by end of day on Monday, March 30. The College will notify students and parents via mass email and the emergency blog. The College continues to monitor its regional situation, and reserves the right to make any additional changes to comply with state public health directives. We want all of our residential and returning students and their families to be safe.

When was Messiah College notified about its campus’ first positive test result for COVID-19?

Messiah’s first positive COVID-19 test result is an employee who is part of a higher at-risk health group. The employee’s spouse, who also works at the College, notified the Engle Center around 9 a.m. on Saturday, March 28, that, earlier that morning, her husband had received a positive COVID-19 test result at on off-campus facility. In keeping with standard notification protocol, which is activated by a positive test result, the College immediately began notifying and providing instruction for the employees and students who may have been in contact with the employee and his spouse during the past two weeks. The College then sent a campus-wide announcement notifying all students, employees and parents about the situation via email and its emergency blog.

Who is responsible for notifying those with potential exposure to employees or students with COVID-19?

Messiah College’s Engle Center is the official point of notification for employees or students who may have potentially been in contact with another campus community member who tests positive for COVID-19. This is why it is important for any Messiah employee or student who tests positive for COVID-19 via an external medical provider to additionally notify the Engle Center. This may be done confidentially by emailing Betsey Miller at bamiller@messiah.edu, or by calling 717-691-6035, so that the College may continue to monitor and ensure the health of our broader campus community.

How much risk is it if I had contact with someone who is COVID-19 positive?

It generally depends on the level of contact. According to CDC Risk Categories, persons coming into general contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 does not meet the definition of “close contact” and is considered a “low” risk level. General contact includes being in the same indoor environment (e.g., a classroom, a waiting room) as a person who is positive COVID-19 for a prolonged period of time but not meeting the definition of close contact.

“Close contact” would include persons living in the same household, an intimate partner, or caring for a person in a non-healthcare setting. It also includes being within approximately six feet of a COVID-19 positive person for a prolonged period of time; or having direct contact with infectious secretions of a COVID-19 positive person (e.g., being coughed or sneezed on or in contact with a surface with these secretions).

What additional safety precautions is Messiah taking now that it has had a positive case of COVID-19?

A primary adjustment Messiah is implementing is that all students currently living on campus are now required to “shelter in place” This means that all remaining residential students are to stay in their assigned residence hall/apartment as much as possible and remain on campus at all times. Leaving campus increases students’ and employee’s risk of exposure to COVID-19 infection and creates a risk of exposing other students and employees who continue to live and work on campus.

Under the shelter in place directive, students are permitted to:

  • pick up food orders at the campus dining hall (which has enacted social distancing food service protocols)
  • take walks or get exercise on campus grounds (while practicing social distancing and remaining six feet away from others on campus);
  • go to the laundry room to do their laundry; and
  • visit the Engle Center for urgent medical needs.

Residence Life will be coordinating other supplies for students who have a need beyond what is available on campus. Messiah will also be continuing its aggressive cleaning protocols in the common living and dining areas that are used by students and /or employees.

All residential students were reminded to follow the World Health Organization’s recommendation to “Do the Five” … i.e., the five things that we can remember to do to stop the spread of Coronavirus:

  • HANDS—wash them often
  • ELBOW—cough into it
  • FACE—don’t touch it
  • SPACE — keep safe distance/ wipe it down
  • HOME— stay in it

Is Messiah College closing its campus to the public?

Prior to notification of its first COVID-19 positive case, in compliance with Pennsylvania’s statewide public health directive, the College had already closed its indoor facilities, and had begun to post/restrict its outdoor space, to the public. Effective March 29, all campus entrances will now be staffed by security personnel indefinitely.

For employees: All employees that are scheduled to work on campus, or those who are authorized to come onto campus for an emergency reason, will be required to show their Messiah ID prior to being permitted onto campus. No other employees should be on campus property at this time.

For students: All residential students have been instructed to stay on campus as part of the College’ “shelter in place” restrictions. No other students, other than those scheduled and approved to move-out and remove their belongings, should be on campus property at this time.

For non-employees/students: Any individual who is not a Messiah employee or student authorized to be on campus will not be permitted onto campus property until further noticeThis includes those walking dogs, seeking access to the creek, fitness trail, etc.

Note: Any contractors authorized to check construction sites or needing emergency access to campus must have a visitor pass.

Messiah is committed to being a good neighbor and we seek to provide as much community access to our private property as we can. However, during this time of public health crisis, some of our students remain on campus and it is critical that we follow state guidelines to focus on their safety, and the personnel who care for them.