Update on COVID case management

As Brock’s COVID case counter indicates, the University managed a small number of positive COVID cases on campus last week. This first experience working with Niagara Region Public Health (NRPH) in the post-vaccine environment leaves us in a better position to share the process and its associated expectations with members of the Brock community.


Intake – What to do if you hear of a positive case or a student with COVID symptoms

If a student tells you that they have tested positive for COVID or have symptoms, they should be instructed to:

  • Go home and self-isolate;
  • Contact NRPH for instructions; and
  • Contact the COVID Nurse in Student Health Services (SHS) for support.

Staff and faculty should do the same if they test positive or have symptoms, contacting the Health Management unit within Human Resources instead of SHS.

If a faculty member learns of a positive case in their class, they do not need to inform their class at the time. This step will be completed by NRPH as part of the contact tracing process if and when the positive case is confirmed.

Note that while rapid antigen screening tools are helpful, they can show ‘false positive’ results and are not considered diagnostic. If someone gets a positive result through a rapid antigen screen, they will be instructed to book a PCR test to confirm the diagnosis. The COVID-19 PCR test is the nasal swab test administered by a health care professional at an assessment centre. Individuals should still self-isolate following a positive result on a rapid antigen screen pending the PCR test results.


Local testing capacity

With students returning to local schools and post-secondary institutions, Niagara Health has been working to increase local COVID testing capacity. For example, on Monday a drive-through mass testing site was reopened at the St. Catharines hospital. These actions should help reduce wait times for PCR tests.


Follow-up – Contact tracing steps

Once a positive student case is confirmed, Brock and NRPH will collaborate to identify the student’s close contacts, including any fellow students, faculty and staff in classes the positive case may have attended while contagious. All students are expected to complete the Brock screening app daily and to stay home if they are feeling unwell. This helps reduce the likelihood that a positive case will come to campus.

NRPH will then reach out to all close contacts to provide instruction as follows:

  • Students who are fully vaccinated are asked to monitor symptoms. A PCR test is recommended seven days after exposure (NRPH will identify the exposure date in its call). However, students who continue to feel well are not required to self-isolate and can continue to attend class.
  • Students who are partially vaccinated or unvaccinated (i.e., with an approved exemption) are told to self-isolate and get a PCR test seven days after exposure. They should self-isolate for 10 days or until the PCR test results come back.

Of the over 15,000 students on Brock’s campus this Fall, only 7% are partially vaccinated. This number will drop between now and mid to late October, when these students should complete their second dose. Approximately 150 students have approved exemptions. This means that, even should there be a positive case in a large class, most students will be able to continue coming to class on campus as asymptomatic and fully vaccinated individuals.


Brock’s role in contact tracing

As mentioned above, contact tracing is a collaborative process between the University and NRPH, with the former providing the necessary information to identify close contacts and the latter doing the ‘leg work’ of contacting students. Based on our experience from last year, Brock may be asked to support NRPH further in this process if local case counts grow.

NRPH will attempt to contact students by phone and by email. NRPH requires confirmation of contact, such as a call-back to a voice message or response to an email. In many cases on campus so far, students have received the message but have failed to provide confirmation of contact. We will be issuing further communications to students to emphasize the need to respond actively and as soon as possible to any outreach from NRPH. Students should also ensure that all their contact information is up to date in the student portal.

If NRPH cannot reach a close contact or fails to receive confirmation of contact, especially from a close contact who is partially vaccinated or unvaccinated, the University will follow up with an email from the Provost’s Office. If that still does not work, the Provost’s Office may reach out to the Dean, Chair, and/or course instructor to identify the student and take further measures to ensure that they understand their requirement to self-isolate.


Evolution of process

We expect the process described above to evolve as NRPH and Brock work together and as the public health situation changes. Any significant changes in process will be communicated as needed through the Provost’s Office newsletter.

Until then, questions and comments are always welcome at provost@brocku.ca.

Categories: September 2021