Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update for staff and students - 2 October 2020
Dear Colleagues and Students,
Last week I wrote to you all to let you know that we had seen an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases within the University community. We have been working throughout with Public Health England (PHE) to analyse the data, and over the weekend it became clear that the main challenge was preventing the transmission of the infection between student domestic settings, either in halls of residence or in houses.
In response, on Monday, we confirmed new measures which were agreed with PHE to further contain the spread of the disease, particularly between student households in Exeter.
Since then we have seen a further increase in cases, identified through our rapid testing, offered by the test points established on the Streatham and Penryn campuses. This is helping us to contain the spread of the infection by identifying positive cases and supporting them to self-isolate. PHE has also confirmed that there is still no evidence of transmission to the wider community.
Devon County Council (DCC) provide a comprehensive dashboard of Covid-19 information for Devon and Cornwall. This shows the authoritative data from Public Health England. The dashboards provide daily information on the number of positive cases and rolling 7-day totals.
The latest data is up to 29 September and shows that there have been 134 cases in the last week for Devon and 137 cases in the last week for Cornwall, with no deaths in either county. The DCC website provides further data for Exeter which has recorded 78 of the cases in Devon over the last period. By working closely with PHE colleagues we know that most of those cases are from the University. We also know that there are a small number of cases amongst students on our Penryn campus.
Our data has shown that demand for tests is rising in Exeter and therefore we have invited the national Test and Trace scheme to set up a temporary Testing Centre on the Streatham campus dedicated to Exeter students and staff. This will allow us to focus our Halo resources on some targeted testing, and also to allow us to develop a process to enable staff family testing, which many of you have asked us to consider.
We are keeping our approach to teaching under constant review and, in the continued absence of any evidence of onward transmission associated with face-to-face teaching, we are maintaining our blended learning model. To keep everyone safe in our teaching spaces, please do ensure that you follow the hands-face-space protocols and the measures we have in place for your protection. Students, please ensure that you record your seat number in case we need to identify close contacts of someone who tests positive. We will be updating the timetable for next week to provide a more even distribution of on-campus teaching sessions, so please keep checking your timetable regularly.
We are continuing to meet daily to review the situation and to plan for the days and weeks ahead, and we are working closely with PHE, Exeter City Council, Devon County Council and Cornwall Council throughout. If further measures are suggested by PHE then I will update you.
Public Health England has provided updated advice for all students (UG/ PGT and PGR) who are clinically vulnerable or who were shielding prior to coming to University. This advice along with other FAQs are on our COVID website.
PHE have also asked us to remind students who are employed part-time in health or social care settings (e.g. care homes, NHS settings, domiciliary care) that they should talk to their employer to make sure any risks are assessed and appropriate measures are put in place to prevent the transmission of COVID-19. This is because individuals in these settings are particularly vulnerable to the disease. Students studying health programmes which involve clinical placements such as medicine, nursing and medical imaging will have received guidance from their programme leads.
I want to thank you all for your continued hard work and perseverance during this challenging and worrying time. We are seeing exemplary behaviour everywhere on our campuses and this is how we, as a community, can fight the spread of this disease. I am especially grateful to our exceptional students who have responded to our advice and guidance admirably and to our frontline professional service and academic staff. We are working hard to make sure you have the support you need and, please remember, it’s okay not to be okay. These are very difficult days and you must reach out for support whenever you need it. Our COVID web pages have links to a huge range of support and resources for staff and students, should you need them.
Registrar and Secretary