As students return to campus and hybrid learning on Feb. 8, Kansas State continues to follow the same gating criteria as last semester. This includes following state and local orders, monitoring positive case counts, hospital capacity, among other metrics.
Jeff Morris, vice president for communication and marketing, said the university will also monitor vaccine distribution now that several vaccines are available.
“We want to look at a couple of things,” Morris said. “One is … the testing, and the testing gives us an idea of can we determine how much [COVID-19] is in our community or how much is on our campuses.”
Anyone can see the percent positivity rate on campus and the amount of K-State affiliated people in quarantine or isolation using the online dashboard.
“It allows us over time to get a sense for how much the virus is either dissipating or surging,” Kyle Goerl, Lafene Health Center director, said. “We’re able to track that from a percent positivity rate over the course of the pandemic. It just gives us an overall sense of how, I would say, somewhat control the viruses in.”
For the week of Jan. 25, K-State had a 3.36 positivity rate.
Despite the vaccines, the different strains of COVID-19 could raise some concern, Goerl said.
“We continue to focus — by we I mean public health in general — is focusing their efforts on getting vaccines disseminated as quickly as possible,” Goerl said, “Because there is real concern about the transmissibility of these new variants and they all appear to be more transmissible.”
Goerl said the increased transmissibility is concerning, but there haven’t been any confirmed local cases of the U.K. variant or the South African variant.
For the future, K-State will take a “holistic” approach to determine mitigating factors of COVID-19 prevention.
“We also wanted to make sure that we were monitoring other indicators of how we were doing to manage the pandemics’ effects on campus and the campus community,” Elliot Young, university risk and compliance officer, said. “We wanted to be able to make a holistic decision if we needed to make any changes or if we needed to modify any of our policies. We looked at things like positive cases, how prevention methods were going and how the community was behaving.”
Similar to last semester, the university won’t release the actual thresholds for the gating criteria.
“That worked for us very well back in the fall and we don’t have any reason to think it would be different in the spring,” Young said.
If the university needs to return to online instruction at any point, Morris said the university will try to give a week’s notice to faculty, staff and students.
“The faculty need time to prepare,” Morris said. “You can’t … just pivot that quickly.”
However, Morris and Goerl said indicators are looking good and it is unlikely K-State will revert to an all-online format.