Disease Policy Update

Through two years of COVID-19, disease control has become a part of every Reedie’s college experience. Adaptation to new situations and information has been, ironically, a constant. These changes include Reed’s disease control policy, which is continually adapting to new strains of COVID-19. This year, the landscape of disease control also includes outbreaks of Monkeypox. So, here’s a rundown on disease control at Reed this semester:

As of the college’s May 20th message, indoor masking is no longer required except in healthcare settings like the Health and Counseling Center (HCC), though individual events and professors can decide their own masking policies. According to the college’s June 17th and August 22nd messages, indoor masking is still “strongly recommended,” and masks will be available at the HCC, Facilities Services, 28 West, and Mail Services. 

In June, the COVID-19 Risk Assessment Group (CRAG), which was responsible for COVID-19 response, was disbanded. Disease control is now the responsibility of the Emergency Response Team (ERT), which includes Medical Services Director Timmie Rochon, DNP, as well as the college’s new Associate Dean for Health and Well-Being, Yasodha Gopal, MD. The Quest spoke to Dr. Gopal to get a more in-depth understanding of the college’s disease control response for this upcoming school year. 

Alongside the lift of masking requirements and the shift from CRAG to the ERT, Dr. Gopal identified the college’s shift from surveillance to diagnostic testing as a major change in disease control response. 

According to Dr. Gopal, “‘surveillance’ testing means taking all or a representative portion of a population and testing them for a disease to try and monitor whether or not COVID-19 was present in the community.” Diagnostic testing, on the other hand, addresses and confirms a likely identified case of COVID-19. This year, “testing services are being transitioned back to medical providers, like with most other infectious diseases. We have diagnostic testing at our HCC available for our students.”

In other words, weekly surveillance testing will no longer be available at Greenwood, and students should go to the HCC if they are symptomatic. Faculty and staff should go through Human Resources (HR) or their personal healthcare provider. 

Dr. Gopal defines ‘symptomatic’ as “[having] acute symptoms of fever, shaking chills, headache, sore throat, loss of taste or smell, shortness of breath, cough, dehydration, [and/or] pain in muscles.” 

In terms of home test kit availability, the federal government suspended provision of free test kits on Sep 2nd. Alongside diagnostic testing available at the HCC, Dr. Gopal notes that “most insurance companies are required to pay for a certain number of test kits on a monthly basis… Oregon Health Authority also maintains a repository of free or low cost testing sites, which can be found online.”

If students test positive with a home kit, they should reach out to the HCC through the Health Portal or by email. There are 15 isolation beds available this semester, though students living in single rooms on campus may be asked to isolate in their dorms in the case of a COVID-19 surge. 

The college hopes to achieve a quicker turnaround in isolation room occupation through a new policy of testing students on the 6th day of their isolation period. Students who test negative and have been fever-free for 24 hours on day 6 can be cleared to leave isolation early. They are still encouraged to mask for the remainder of the 10-day period.

When asked about her concerns on Monkeypox, Dr. Gopal responded:

“In terms of hMPXV, which is what I prefer to call it, my main concern is to stop the spread, the stigma, and to know one’s own risk. I actively took care of many patients during the AIDS crisis in the early nineties and if I could get a message out now, it would be that we must not spread the rumor that this disease can affect only certain populations. Anyone can get hMPX. The risk is highest through direct skin to skin contact and sexual contact. The incubation period is 6-21 days and the illness itself can last several weeks. Given the duration of the illness, any student who has a confirmed diagnosis would likely have to take a medical leave.”

The situation with both diseases, as expected, will continue to change throughout the semester. In addition to monitoring the college’s campus-wide messages, stay updated on campus disease control by checking the HCC’s portion of the Reed website, which includes information on COVID-19 and hMPXV.

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