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, co-existing public health issues, I am writing to inform you of two specific concerns that you may be concerned about: COVID-19 variants and the emergence of monkeypox in Washington State. .
First, I will provide reminders and information about current COVID-19 protocols on campus, then I will provide summary information about monkeypox and our responses that continue to be developed in conjunction with Tacoma – Pierce County Public Health .
Fall 2022 COVID-19 Campus Protocols
- Vaccine reminder: The PLU is classified as a fully vaccinated campus, due to our requirement that all students and employees must be vaccinated unless they have been approved for a vaccine exemption. Vaccinated students or those wishing to apply for an exemption will find instructions for submitting immunization records or exemption documents on the Health Center’s Documents and Forms web page. (Fully vaccinated = completion of initial vaccination series; current = all recommended boosters received.) New employees should submit their vaccination or exemption documents through Human Resources.
- Testing: Students and employees coming to campus for the first time or after an absence are strongly encouraged to participate in the COVID PCR or antigen test prior to arrival. If they test positive, students should not come to campus and should contact the health center to discuss their positive results and the isolation schedule. Employees who test positive should contact their supervisors and report their positive test to Human Resources.
- COVID testing continues to be available on campus. The health center will provide testing for students who have COVID-related symptoms or who have been exposed to COVID. The Curative kiosk in the Center de santé parking lot continues to be available on weekdays — Click here to be planned – with PCR tests for symptomatic and exposed students and employees. We also strongly encourage all students and staff to store multiple rapid antigen tests at home to ensure easy access to testing when needed.
- Masking: Based on current case counts in Pierce County, indoor masking is recommended but not required. Masking on campus as a requirement or recommendation is determined by guidance from the Tacoma–Pierce County Health Department (TPCHD) and the CDC. 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. (That eventuality would likely be short-term and only last until the numbers drop again.)
- Management of suspected and positive cases:
- Based on current advice from our partners at TPCHD, there have been no changes to the requirements five days of isolation for a positive case, followed by five hiding days when around other people.
- Students who develop symptoms or test positive for COVID should contact the health center for advice on managing their case. PLU will continue to offer a limited number of on-campus isolation spaces for students who test positive; students may also choose to self-isolate 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 COVID questions.
Employees should contact Human Resources and Student Health Center if they have any other COVID-related concerns or questions. As monkeypox becomes an emerging 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 monkey pox? Monkeypox is a rare virus related to smallpox and varicella viruses and is endemic in several sub-Saharan countries. It appeared in clusters that briefly appeared in Europe and the United States, but never at the current level. Monkeypox is transmitted primarily through skin and sexual contact (although it is not classified as a sexually transmitted infection). The current outbreak in the United States has symptoms that include a rash of small, growing lesions; fatigue; and swollen lymph nodes. This CDC resource provides more details with additional links.
- Monkeypox FAQ: We have collected some FAQs of various websites which will provide other useful information about monkeypox risk factors, transmissionand symptoms.
- Monkeypox in Pierce County: To date, there have been three confirmed cases of monkeypox, in unrelated individuals, in Pierce County. In order to stay abreast of this growing public health emergency (now defined as such by the World Health Organization), we are in close contact with TPCHD to determine an appropriate initial campus and health center response. This link will bring 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.
- Management of suspected and positive cases:
- Students who are concerned about possible monkeypox symptoms and/or are unsure of the 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 get assessed and tested. PLU has a limited number of isolation spaces for students awaiting test results. After testing positive, individuals should remain in isolation until all smallpox lesions have fully healed and healthy skin is present at all lesion sites.
- Employees should consult with their health care providers and contact Human Resources if instructed to self-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 many of you have already suffered losses on many levels. I also know how strong and resilient the PLU community is, and I truly hope that providing you with this information will give you the resources you need to continue to make careful and safe choices about your social and health behaviors.
Elizabeth Hopper, MN, ARNP
Director of the health center