Pandemic Safety Protocols and Trigger Points

February 24, 2021
Leslie Lawrence, M.D., Executive Director for Health and Wellness

The health and safety of students and community members is the top priority of the Institute. As part of the Rensselaer Pandemic Protocols, we established two key trigger levels in order to effectively prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the campus community.


Trigger Level 1: More than 30 confirmed COVID-19 cases (faculty, staff, or students), within a rolling two-week period, among those with campus access 

  • Mandatory quarantine-in-place

  • Isolation of individuals who test COVID-19 positive, and quarantining those who have been in close contact with someone who tests positive

  • Minimum two-week suspension of in-person instruction; pivot to remote instruction

  • Continued mandatory testing of all on-campus students, faculty, and staff

  • No campus gatherings or events 

  • Resume Return to Campus-Based Operations protocols and procedures, once spread is under control

Trigger Level 2: Confirmed cases exceed our ability to isolate and quarantine students or indications of significant community spread

  • President declares an Institute State of Emergency 

  • Full activation of the following:

    • The Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP)

    • The Enhanced Executive Command Center

    • The Emergency Operations Group (EOG)

  • All portfolio business continuity plans take effect

  • Shutdown of the campus, except for critical operations

  • Continued mandatory testing of students and anyone with campus access 

  • Adequate stock of critical supplies will be identified and maintained (one-month supply)

  • Follow the guidance of the CDC, NYS Health Department, and Rensselaer County Health Department

We established the first trigger of 30 new cases over a 14-day period based on our ability to care for sick and quarantined students. We have had 15 cases in the past seven days. At this pace, we will soon reach Trigger Level 1, unless something changes dramatically. 


Common mistakes our positive cases have reported include the following:

  1. Taking masks off when people they don’t live with come over to their space to socialize. The assumption you no longer need a mask because they are your friend/family and you are in your personal space is erroneous. Please continue to wear masks in these situations.

  2. Taking masks off when getting into cars with friends/family. Cars are small spaces; not only should you not take your mask off, you should consider putting a second mask on because these are such small spaces.

  3. Traveling. People have been traveling to other universities and to their homes on weekends. Everyone must stop this behavior, as it accounts for nearly half of all our cases.  Even more importantly, it endangers others who they may come into contact with during their travels (e.g., on trains, on planes, at rest stops).

  4. Going places when they just “feel a little sick.” If you are feeling ill at all, it is critical for you to stay home and wait for your next test result.

 Important Safety Measures

All faculty, staff, and students must strictly follow all our safety measures and protocols. Please continue to do your part to help protect the health and safety of our community.

  • Wear a face mask at all times in public spaces and avoid touching your mouth, nose, and eyes to stop the spread of germs.

  • Be sure to maintain a 6-foot distance between you and others at all times.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds. If not available, use hand sanitizer.

  • Clean and disinfect frequently used surfaces.

  • Cover coughs and sneezes with a tissue and then dispose of the tissue and wash your hands.

  • If you feel sick, stay home. Contact your doctor or the Student Health Center if you think you have COVID-19.

  • Do not gather in groups over 10.

  • Attend COVID-19 testing 2x/per week.

  • Complete your Daily Health Check and Daily Interactions and Activities Log (DIAL).

We must continue to place a high priority on the welfare of our community and remain vigilant. We appreciate your diligence in adhering to our health and safety protocols to ensure our community remains safe. 

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