COVID-19 Protocols for Events

To Our Staff:

I hope you are as excited as I am to have so many faculty, staff and students back on campus today. After such a long stretch of staying apart and engaging online, seeing actual crowds pouring into classrooms and dining halls feels nothing short of inspiring.

Now that in-person classes have commenced and student activities are in full swing, I wanted to provide you guidance regarding another essential aspect of an in-person campus experience: events.

Lectures, symposia, and other professional gatherings have long been staples in traditional academic years. While the Delta variant has required some adjustments to those expectations, we want to preserve as much of a ‘normal’ semester as possible. At the same time, we remain committed to taking precautions necessary to safeguard the health of every member of our community.

Fortunately, these goals are far from mutually exclusive. Thanks to our high vaccination rates and strong participation in baseline COVID-19 testing, we start the year with significant pandemic protections already in place. Add in consistent mask wearing and, when necessary, physical distancing, and the layers of defense grow even greater.

Given that context, we support hosting lectures and other meetings—with a few caveats:

  1. Do not attend events if you have COVID-19 symptoms—even if you’re fully vaccinated.
    In fact, you should not go anywhere on campus, and instead contact your primary health care provider for guidance.

  2. If indoors, make sure to wear your mask.
    No amount of protection is perfect, but vaccination and masking are among the most effective dual combinations against COVID-19.

  3. If indoors, also consider reducing the number of invitations—and/or selecting larger venues.
    By now most of you have heard the term “Swiss Cheese Model” in terms of pandemic defense. In simplest terms, the more layers of protection you have, the less likely you are to become infected.

  4. Be smart about refreshments.
    The best option is to provide wrapped or boxed items that people can eat later, but if food and/or drink need to be part of the event, please avoid buffets or similar arrangements where people are close together and sharing large utensils like serving spoons. In addition, put your mask back on once you’ve finished eating.
  5. Finally, any event involving 50 or more participants and including people not affiliated with the university requires submission of a plan be submitted for review and approval by the university’s COVID-19 operations group.

    As a first step, share your proposal with your department chair or other supervisor. This individual will submit the final document to the operations group. Requests for events involving people not affiliated with the university must be submitted to the group at least two weeks before the date of the event.

    In addition, all communications regarding the event (including invitations) should include this paragraph:

    Increasing COVID-19 cases within Northeast Ohio have prompted Case Western Reserve to resume its requirement that masks be worn indoors. In addition, only those who are fully vaccinated (two weeks past their final dose) should attend any campus event. Leaders continue to monitor pandemic developments and may need to adjust health protocols further as circumstances warrant. In-person is subject to change based on COVID-19 guidelines.

Like you, I wish so many measures were no longer necessary. But so long as Delta continues to contribute to increasing infections, we must take extra precautions to protect one another—and continue to be able to enjoy all of the benefits of a fully in-person semester.

Carolyn Gregory
Vice President of Human Resources