Weekly COVID-19 Update: October 8

To our great sadness, over the last couple of weeks, we have experienced the passing of two more members of our Bengal Family due to COVID-19. Many of us, including our students, have experienced the loss of a loved one due to the pandemic, and it is heartbreaking. This news can be difficult to process. The ISU Counseling and Testing Center put together a resource guide to help those coping with loss. To receive additional mental health support, please remember that all benefit-eligible employees have up to five free counseling sessions during each benefit year through our Employee Assistance Program
We all want this pandemic to end. I implore everyone who is eligible to get their vaccine. The University will continue to encourage and emphasize vaccinations for every member of our campus community. Last week, I announced that all University employees who received the Pfizer vaccine at least six months ago are now eligible for the booster.
Idaho State saw a slight decrease in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases on all of our campuses this past week. To meet our shared goal of safely maintaining in-person education for our students, our University is implementing modifications to our operational guidelines.

  • Idaho State will remain at Level White on all campuses. However, the modifications outlined below will be adopted for the next two weeks, through Friday, October 22. Guidance will be updated thereafter as needed and based on the data.

  • There are no changes in the Level White operational guidance for the Housing and Dining, Community Health, Research, Travel, and Screening Program categories.

  • Face coverings continue to be required indoors at all campus locations. Additionally, the requirement now extends to outdoor events of all sizes when physical distancing is not possible. Exemptions from the outdoor face covering requirement are approved through either enhanced screening protocols (i.e. athletics practices) or the health exception process. Face coverings are still required on commuter buses, and riders should distance from one another as much as possible.

  • In-person instruction should be maintained as much as possible. To enhance the safety of our instructional environments, faculty should develop seating charts for classrooms to effectively support contact tracing if positive cases are identified. Faculty should also develop or continue to offer online, hy-flex, or supportive options for students who are ill or in quarantine.

  • In consultation with their leadership, departments should develop plans to offer services using a combination of virtual, remote, and face-to-face formats. It is not expected that all employees will transition to remote operations, but decisions should be made in close consultation with leadership during this two-week modified operational period. In areas where physical distancing is not possible, offices may consider rotating the on-campus presence of their employees. Remote work agreements are not needed for temporary telework due to our modified operational level. Meetings should be hosted virtually whenever possible. 

  • If possible, all events that operated under our health exception process last year should implement their previously approved plans. Every effort should be made to increase physical distancing or move events outdoors. Event organizers and their leadership are currently reviewing all upcoming in-person events to make near-term decisions and recommendations. Next Wednesday afternoon, updated event guidance and health protocols will be posted online and shared with event organizers. 

  • Our on-campus COVID-19 Screening Program continues to randomly test faculty, staff, and students with an on-campus presence. The University will send a weekly email to 1,000 randomly selected individuals to set up a mandatory screening appointment. If selected, you are required to participate unless you meet one of the valid exemptions. Individuals who are fully vaccinated will be exempted from the screening requirement.

  • Contact tracing is an important part of Idaho State’s response to the pandemic. If a member of the University Health Committee contacts you, I expect you to follow their instructions and guidance. It is also absolutely critical that you use the University's Self Report Form if you have COVID-19 symptoms, exposure, or a confirmed case. Mitigation strategies help us maintain in-person instruction.

  • Please be aware that emails to and from the University Health Committee may look different than our regular campus communications. These emails are sent through a separate, encrypted email system to ensure the privacy of your health information. 
I appreciate everyone's flexibility and willingness to adapt to an ever-changing situation. The first six weeks of this semester have once again reminded me that we are all part of a dedicated Bengal family, and looking out for the well-being of one another is central to who we are. Additional guidance and operational updates will be shared next Friday.


Kevin Satterlee
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