Cluster Control | Campus COVID-19 response plan faces questions and criticism

A student holds a phone showing the Campus Clear app, which students must use to check for potential COVID-19 symptoms each day before going to class.

During Gov. Holcomb’s weekly virtual COVID-19 press conference Wednesday, the Indiana Department of Health announced more restrictions are coming as COVID-19 cases increase across the state.

Abandoning its original five-step reopening plan, the state will now look at each individual county and add targeted restrictions starting Saturday. Each county is being assessed and ranked on a color-coded map that represents the overall seven-day positivity rate and new cases per 100,000 residents.

The majority of counties are now rated “orange,” representing moderate COVID-19 spread. Others are rated as “red” for high levels of new cases.

Johnson County is currently rated orange. Under the new restrictions, this means gatherings of any kind are limited to 50 people.

If Johnson County moves to red, gatherings will be further limited to 25 people and the state will advise against holding any major events, including college-level and professional sports.

As the spring semester comes closer, sports at Franklin College are planning to compete again. The fate of those plans will now be determined by Johnson County’s COVID-19 positivity rate and the number of cases at Franklin College.

“As we get closer to the beginning of conference play, if this type of situation presented itself, we would address it directly at the time,” HCAC Commissioner Jay Jones said.

Already, many Franklin College student-athletes have dealt with targeted testing as part of NCAA safety requirements and the college’s Fortify Franklin plan. This will continue as the college learns more about the new restrictions, Athletic Director Andrew Hendricks said.

“We continue to use data and advice from health professionals to drive our decisions appropriately,” Hendricks said. “We will definitely continue to address any issues as they present themselves. Until then, we will continue with what we can control and follow our campus plan.”

Franklin College is working with the Johnson County Health Department when making any decision to limit campus activities. Elizabeth Swearinger, the department’s public health preparedness coordinator, said health officials are working to better understand the new order.

“I do not know exactly what anything will look like if we go red. We are going to sit down early next week to discuss what going red will mean to the county,” Swearinger said.

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