Public Health Concerns and PLU Community Updates | Consulting, health and wellness services

Dear PLU Community,

As we continue to engage in the long game of responding as a community to multiple concurrent public health concerns, I am writing to inform you of two specific concerns that may be of concern to you: variants of COVID-19 and the emergence of monkeypox in the state Washington.

I will first provide some reminders and information about current campus COVID-19 protocols, and then provide an overview of monkeypox and our responses, which continue to be developed in collaboration with Tacoma-Pierce County Public Health.

Fall 2022 COVID-19 Campus Protocols

  • Vaccination reminder: PLU is classified as a fully vaccinated campus due to our requirement that all students and staff be vaccinated unless approved for a vaccine exemption. Vaccinated students or those interested in requesting an exemption will find directions for submitting vaccine records or exemption documentation on the Health Center Documents and Forms webpage. (Fully vaccinated = completion of initial vaccine series; current = all recommended boosters received.) New hires must submit their vaccination or release documentation through Human Resources.
  • Testing: Students and staff coming to campus for the first time or after being away are strongly encouraged to participate in COVID PCR or antigen testing prior to their arrival. If positive, students should not come to campus and should contact the Health Center to discuss their positive results and isolation schedule. Employees who test positive should communicate with their supervisors and report their positive test to Human Resources.
  • COVID testing continues to be offered on campus. The health center will provide testing for students who exhibit symptoms related to COVID or who have been exposed to COVID. The Health Center parking lot treatment kiosk continues to be available weekdays — click here to schedule — with PCR testing for symptomatic and exposed students and staff. We also strongly encourage all students and staff to keep several rapid antigen tests at home to provide easy access to testing when needed.
  • Masking: Based on the current number of cases in Pierce County, masking indoors is recommended but not required. Masking on campus as a requirement or recommendation is determined by Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) and CDC leadership. How this decision is determined can be found here. If the determining factors increase, we will alert the campus that indoor masking has become a requirement. (This opportunity will likely be short-lived and only last until the numbers drop again.)
  • Care of doubtful and positive cases:
    • Based on current guidance from our partners at TPCHD, there is no change in what is required five days of isolation for a positive case followed by five masking days when you are around other people.
    • Students who develop symptoms or test positive for COVID should contact the Health Center for guidance on managing their case. PLU will continue to offer a limited number of isolation spaces on campus for students who test positive; students may also choose to isolate themselves in an off-campus space.
    • employees must inform their supervisor if they are unable to work due to exposure, illness or a positive case.
    • This flowchart remains an excellent source of guidance for questions about COVID.

Employees should contact Human Resources and students should contact the Health Center if they have additional concerns or questions related to COVID. As monkeypox becomes a new concern, we are also preparing to respond to the possibility of a case occurring in our campus community.

Overview of Monkeypox and Campus Protocols

  • What is monkeypox? Monkeypox is a rare virus related to the varicella and varicella viruses and is endemic to several sub-Saharan countries. It appeared in short-lived clusters in Europe and the US, but never to the current level. Monkeypox is primarily transmitted through skin-to-skin and sexual contact (although it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection). The current outbreak in the US presents with symptoms that include a rash of small lesions that grow in size; tiredness; and swollen lymph nodes. This CDC resource provides additional details with additional links.
  • Frequently asked questions about monkeypox: We have collected some frequently asked questions from various websites that will provide additional useful information about the risk factors, transmission and symptoms of monkeypox.
  • Monkeypox in Pierce County: To date, there have been three confirmed cases of monkeypox in unrelated individuals in Pierce County. In an effort to stay abreast of this growing public health emergency (now designated as such by the World Health Electronic Organization), we are in close contact with TPCHD to determine an appropriate initial campus and health center response. This link will take you to TPCHD announcements related to monkeypox, and we strongly encourage our entire PLU community to be as informed as possible about this virus and its associated symptoms and risk factors.
  • Care of doubtful and positive cases:
    • Students who are concerned about possible monkeypox symptoms and/or are unsure about potential exposure to monkeypox should call the health center (253-535-7337), their health care provider, or an urgent care clinic, to determine if, how and where to be assessed and tested. PLU has a limited number of isolation spaces available for students awaiting test results. After testing positive, people are required to remain in isolation until all smallpox lesions have completely healed and healthy skin has appeared on all lesion sites.
    • employees should consult with their health care providers and communicate with human resources if they are ordered to isolate due to a suspected or confirmed case.

I understand that the monkeypox outbreak comes at a time when we are all still recovering—emotionally, physically, and financially—from the COVID pandemic, and that many of you have already suffered losses on many levels. I also know how strong and resilient the PLU community is, and I very much hope that providing this information will give you the resources you need to continue making mindful and safe choices about your social and health behaviors.

in the community

Elizabeth Hopper, MN, ARNP
Director of the Health Center

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