December 10, 2021
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Dear Hope community,

Here we are, closing in on the last couple days of classes, and what a terrific fall semester it’s been! Hope has stayed here and healthy, doing all the things together that make Hope Hope. Thank you again for doing your part – all semester long. We appreciate every individual effort to care for our community as a whole.

Moving Forward

Before students begin to depart campus over the next week, we write to update you about what to expect for the start of the Spring 2022 semester. As the pandemic landscape continues to change (hello omicron variant) and as new sub-variants also are rapidly emerging, “we believe we cannot make ‘game-time’ decisions too far in advance as it will take weeks to understand human health implications,” says our resident virologist and provost, Dr. Gerald Griffin.

As a result, our work as a Campus Health Advisory Team and our safeguard diligence as a campus community is as important today as it was in March, 2020. Yes, this pandemic is tiring, stressful, and maddening. We hear you, and we agree with you. Yet, we also are mindful that it takes all of us pulling together in the same direction to turn this thing around not only for our own sakes but for the sake of our overwhelmed health care staffs and systems. 

So then, before we finish fall semester 2021, please read below regarding guidance for reentry and operations in 2022. This plan is supported by our partners at the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. As always, we will continue to monitor our campus and county’s COVID circumstances and reevaluate our plans as needed.

Pre-Arrival Testing will not be required for any student prior to returning to campus. Instead, every unvaccinated student will be tested at Hope’s Testing Center during our first week of classes in 2022. The significant increase in positive cases following the Thanksgiving Break taught us this best practice as it gives us more timely results instead of relying on pre-arrival tests that can be administered up to three to five days before a student arrives back at Hope.  

After the first week, Surveillance Testing of unvaccinated students will then continue as it did in the fall, with an every-other-week testing cadence. Students who are expected to report for surveillance testing will receive another email about scheduling. Watch for this correspondence to appear in your inbox the first week of January, 2022.

Wastewater Testing will continue as well. Thank you again to our wastewater testing team for giving Hope another layer of scientific data to access and assess for COVID mitigation measures.

Mask Policies will remain the same as the fall semester when we return. We believe this policy, along with our highly vaccinated student population (82%), is the reason the Hope positivity rate for on-campus testing (< 2.0%) has been so much lower than our county positivity rate (> 20%). Also, while masks help us mitigate COVID, they also cut down on the rates of transmission for flu, cold and RSV, which have all been on the rise. Again, the OCDPH affirms this mask policy for our community.

Quarantine, Isolation and Contact Tracing will also continue as before. If students who must isolate or quarantine live within 300 miles of campus, the college is asking them to do so at home if they are able. As with the fall semester, Hope has secured housing for those who must isolate and quarantine and whose permanent residence is outside of 300 miles.

What About…

Other things you can do to keep Hope healthy before your return to campus in January? (So glad we asked!) We encourage you to please:

  • Get your COVID booster or begin a COVID vaccine series while you are home during break;

  • Get a flu vaccine, too;

  • Wear a mask indoors in crowded, public settings;

  • Choose outdoors spaces when possible;

  • Get tested if you are experiencing COVID symptoms;

  • Remain at home if you are sick with COVID/flu symptoms; and, as always,

  • Wash your hands frequently.

Finally, a HUGE Thank You

The medical staff at the Hope Health Center has done an awesome job this semester to serve the health needs of our students. They have put in long hours and exposed themselves to various viruses, all while providing quality care during symptomatic and asymptomatic testing, vaccination clinics, flu season, and much more. Though they don’t do this selfless work for recognition, would you please join us today in extending a BIG thank you to all of our colleagues in the Health Center for their dedication to our college? We could not keep Hope here and healthy without them!

Also, please know this one last thing regarding the Health Center: Staffing capacity and test inventory are not available enough to conduct pre-departure tests for any student who wants peace-of-mind testing before heading home for the holiday break. If you would like to be tested prior to departure, here are locations and dates with free COVID testing in Ottawa County.

May God Bless You and Keep You

Christmastime is here, and with it, our celebration of a God who loved us so much that He dwelt among us. It is a reality both miraculous and confounding. But here we are, reminded of that amazing miracle again and giving praise for it. May Jesus cover you and yours with His mind-boggling goodness and light this Christmas and always.

Until we see you again in the new year, safe travels, holiday blessings, and great health,

The Campus Health Advisory Team

Kristyn Bochniak, Lindsey Engelsman, Eva Dean Folkert, Richard Frost, Gerald Griffin, Jeff Pestun, Bill Vanderbilt
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