Town Meeting

Dr. Lawrence announces plan to prevent coronavirus spread

Executive Director for Health and Wellness Dr. Leslie Lawrence outlined a plan during the Spring Town Meeting to prevent the spread of COVID-19 when students return to campus.

The plan, dubbed T3SQ, is part of the Start-Up Task Force established by President Shirley Ann Jackson for “lessening risk and mitigating consequence” of COVID-19.

T3SQ stands for “Testing,” “Tracing,” “Tracking,” “Surveillance,” and “Quarantine,” under which members of the Rensselaer community will be tested for COVID-19, close contacts of anyone who tests positive will be traced, and the number of overall cases within the community will be tracked. “All students, faculty, and staff will be tested for COVID-19,” when they return to campus, said Lawrence during the Town Meeting.

“Once everyone is tested, then they will be put into a program where they will be continually tested every two weeks throughout our semester, so we can keep track of where any positives are,” elaborated Lawrence, referring to positive cases of COVID-19.

Three RPI faculty will also act as “tracers,” keeping track of the people who have come into contact with a member of the Rensselaer community who has tested positive, and “making sure samples are collected every two weeks” for COVID-19 testing. Tracking areas in which COVID-19 has higher emergence rates, or “hotspots,” allows for the control of its spread. Lawrence has recommended athletic trainers to these positions, but they have not yet been approved by Jackson or the Board of Trustees.

Surveillance, in the context of public health, is “the ongoing, systematic collection, analysis, and interpretation of health-related data essential to planning, implementation, and evaluation of public health practice” according to the Center for Disease Control. Public health surveillance involves the identification of patients and close contacts—via contact tracing—for treatment, and does not involve the storage of the data of individuals. Also under the proposed plan, close contacts of anybody testing positive for, or ill with, COVID-19 will have to be under quarantine for 14 days.

Students, faculty, and staff will be required to log symptoms or the lack of symptoms on an app on a daily basis, so that contact tracing data can identify hotspots and assist in containing the spread of the virus. The RPI information technology department is developing the app, which has not yet been completed nor approved.

The Institute also plans to distribute cloth face masks to be worn at all times while outside of rooms and provide surgical masks in classrooms, because, as Lawrence explained during the Town Hall, “they don’t wet through like the cloth masks.”

Lawrence further explained that if RPI resumes in-person teaching in the Fall, there will be cleaning products in common rooms and that “[the Institute] will be increasing the amount of cleaning [they] do as well.”

Regarding isolation rooms, Lawrence told The Poly in an email that “most likely, Colonie apartments will be used for isolation and quarantine facilities, but the President [Jackson] and the Board of trustees will make the final decision.”

Update: June 25, 2020

As of the June 10th announcement by Dr. Lawrence, there will be six certified tracers, not three as stated in the article.