The following Q-and-A illuminates the key priorities of the plan and how it is being executed:
What has the university done to ensure the health and safety of students, faculty and staff who are on Pfeiffer’s Misenheimer campus for the fall 2020 semester?
It has modified numerous aspects of the traditional on-campus experience, drawing on Welcome Home: A Return to Campus Plan, which Pfeiffer’s Total Quality Management Team rolled out in early August after meeting twice each week since March. Welcome Home reflects executive orders from the federal or the state government, guidance from local and state public health officials and input from Pfeiffer’s faculty and staff.
What are some key safety measures that each person is adopting?
Everyone is required to wear a university-issued cloth mask in such places as hallways, classrooms, the Stokes Student Center, the G.A. Pfeiffer Library and the dining hall. (The dining hall is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner but is offering to-go items only.) Masks are not required to be worn in such personal spaces as individual offices or dorm rooms.
Social distancing is compulsory. The university has rearranged desks in classrooms so that each student is at least six feet apart from other students and/or an instructor. Similar modifications have been made to lounge areas.
On a daily basis, students, faculty and staff are utilizing LiveSafe, an app that enables self-screening for COVID-19 symptoms. By the middle of September, a machine for flu and COVID testing will be available on campus. This will provide positive results within 5 minutes and negative ones with 15 minutes.
Finally, all students, faculty and staff signed a health and well-being pledge obligating them to follow best practices for preventing the spread of the Coronavirus. They took an online course on COVID-19 awareness. This covered such topics as the definition of COVID-19, how to prevent its transmission, suitable disinfectants and what to do if you become sick or exposed.
How have operations changed to make Pfeiffer’s Misenheimer campus safe for those who live, study, work, and take classes there?
Because gathering in groups increases the risk of viral transmission, Pfeiffer is discouraging in-person meetings in favor of online collaboration. If in-person meetings are unavoidable, they are limited to 10 people, with each participant required to wear a mask and practice social distancing.
The university is limiting the number of visitors it receives in an effort to decrease the Misenheimer campus community’s risk of exposure to the Coronavirus. All visitors must wear a mask and undergo health screenings. Visitors are not permitted in residence halls at any time.
The risk of exposure also increases when students leave and return to campus multiple times. So, the academic calendar for undergraduates has been modified in “compressed” fashion to keep the boarders among them on campus until the Thanksgiving holidays (Nov. 25). After the Thanksgiving break, classes, which began Aug. 18 for undergraduates, will resume online Nov. 30-Dec. 2. Final exams will be taken online as well, between Dec. 4 and Dec. 11. The spring semester will begin Jan. 13.
There will be two single-day breaks during the fall semester, on Sept. 22 and on Oct. 25. These will provide some respite and/or enable advising, research and study.
As for graduate/online programs, the scheduling of the fall semester and the delivery of programs remain as initially planned and published before the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. This reflects the fact that Pfeiffer’s graduate programs conduct classes during the summer months and must fulfill distinctive delivery, start date and student needs.
How has Pfeiffer’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic affected sports?
The USA South Athletic Conference, of which Pfeiffer is a member, recently postponed all games involving fall sports teams until spring 2021. This affects soccer, volleyball, and cross country. Teams are not meeting for formal practices. However, athletes continue to lift weights and use cardio equipment in ways deemed safe by the university. The status of winter and spring sports is under review.
What happens if containment and mitigation become necessary?
Extensive policies and procedures are in place to deal with all facets of this scenario. In essence, though, Pfeiffer University will require and/or provide for the isolation of any community member who tests positive for COVID-19. It will require and/or provide quarantine for individuals exposed to COVID-19 while test results are pending or until the 14-day quarantine period is complete.
Ken Keuffel, who authored this article, has served as Pfeiffer’s Assistant Director of Communications since December 2019. He welcomes story ideas from Pfeiffer’s faculty, staff, students, alumni, and friends. The form for submitting story ideas is at www.pfeiffer.edu/newsform.