The return to campus during a pandemic has left many Maryville College students anxious for more information on policies, processes, and informational reports about COVID-19. To ease these concerns and inform students of the college’s efforts, administration and faculty members have released statements that shed light on what students can expect during these special circumstances.
Several teams, groups, and officials have worked on identifying campus safety procedures, according to Vice President and Dean of the Students, Dr. Melanie Tucker.
“The COVID-19 workgroup has consulted with entities such as the Tennessee Department of Health, Blount County Health Department, Blount Memorial Hospital, and medical providers along with federal guidance from the CDC, Tennessee Department of Health, and various professional organizations,” Tucker said.
Dr. Danielle Lincoln is the Chemical Hygiene Officer and Natural Sciences Officer at Maryville College. She aids in the training and safety of employees on campus and in interpreting state and federal safety guidelines. She is also partnered in the COVID-19 workgroup for the college.
Lincoln described the diligent efforts of the COVID-19 workgroup saying the group meets twice weekly to evaluate policies, procedures, and any new issues. This frequent meeting time ensures that the college is updating its procedures based on its most current information.
In further efforts to keep the campus safe and encourage accountability, the college created a COVID-19 Incident Report form, in which the campus community can express concerns about breaches of behavioral expectations and guidelines. This form is available online at https://www.maryvillecollege.edu/news/info-regarding-covid19/incident-reporting/
Some students worry about the lack of case-number reporting on campus, but Tucker assures that this policy is well-advised from the Tennessee Department of Health and Blount County Health Department.
“Our campus population size is small enough that impacted individuals could potentially be identified,” Tucker said.
Case number reports are discouraged as they may violate the privacy of affected students, which in turn would discourage self-reporting from students who experience symptoms.
“To share personal medical information, individuals must trust that such information will be protected,” Tucker said.
To further protect information, each member of the College Student Support Team has completed training on adhering to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). HIPAA is a federal law requiring the protection of individual patient health data. Maryville College’s policies on reporting and aiding affected students follow HIPAA guidelines closely to protect student privacy.
“Risk of exposure is associated with individuals who have tested positive or are presumed to be a ‘probable case’ as defined by state and federal guidance,” Tucker said. “Exposure includes any unmasked interactions with such individuals, for any period, as well as masked interactions of 15 minutes or more within 6 feet or less of distance.”
Tucker urges students who experience symptoms or possible exposure to email the report to [email protected]. To follow up, the Student Support Team will address severity of the situation and notify the student of their next steps in assessing the need testing, quarantine or isolation.
Both Lincoln and Tucker inform students that there are free COVID-19 testing options through the College, including self-test kits that can come back within 24 to 48 hours. Blount County Health Department also offers free testing from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. on weekdays.
Lincoln said that the college is “executing a very robust sanitizing schedule” and setting specific guidelines in place to continue protecting the member of this community. She urges students to keep themselves and others responsible when it comes to social distancing, wearing masks, avoiding large groups, mindfulness in social interactions, sanitizing their hands.
On a hopeful and uplifting note, Lincoln expressed her confidence that Maryville College’s population is following the guidelines appropriately, which she attributed to the “strong community” and ability to cooperate well with each other.