Outbreak management plan for COVID-19

This page summarises our approach to managing a potential COVID-19 outbreak at Keele.

Page updated: 01 October 2020

The components of our approach

Since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020, the University has operated a staff and student notification system to alert the University to potential Covid-19 infection within our community. With the return to operations, following the summer vacation, the University has established a revised the notification process for both staff and students.

The notification process will form the basis of an early warning of the likely possibility of an outbreak, potentially in advance of formal notification from our local health protection team. Communications campaigns to ensure that staff and students are aware of their responsibilities to use this early notification system are being deployed across campus.

The University has established a dedicated Covid Response Team (BRONZE Team) who will act as the first line of our management response via the collection of all information relating to suspected and confirmed infections in staff and students. This team will provide the initial management response to: (i) notifying individuals; (ii) wider University services; and (iii) incoming requests from local health protection teams and NHS e.g. notification of positive tests and requests for support to track and trace.

The CRT will provide the Bronze level management response group.

The second level management response to an outbreak will be overseen by our established Professional Services (Operational) Group (SILVER Team), chaired by the Chief Operating Officer. This group includes all professional service directors, the DVC, Head of Student Services, Head of Health & Safety and CE of the Students’ Union. This group will provide the Silver level management response group. This group currently meets twice a week.

This group will continue to report to the VC Advisory Group (GOLD TEAM) which has and continues to meet daily. The VC Advisory group consists of the VC, Deputy Vice-Chancellor & Provost, Chief Operating Officer, Director of Human Resources, Pro Vice-Chancellor Education and Director of Finance. This group will provide the Gold level management response.

The University has an established procedure for handling disease outbreaks. This procedure has been used to inform this specific Outbreak Management Plan. Where the Outbreak Management Plan differs from this established plan, it takes precedence.

Our Information and Digital Services team have been developed a dedicated information system to support the work of the CRT. This system draws together key information on student and staff activity on campus including: attendance at teaching sessions; use of sports, catering and Library facilities; accommodation contacts (on campus student residents); Safezone data; and facilities access using the Keele card (including payment for services and checking in to a range of university areas).

The University is also promoting the NHS Track and Trace App and its QR code scanning capability in line with legislative requirements.

We have had engagement with our local partners over recent months with regard to our outbreak planning. Our Head of Health and Safety has good existing professional links with members of the local teams, which has enabled an informal engagement to take place regularly.

Our last formal engagement on Wednesday 16 September 2020 included representatives from both of our senior teams. The primary purposes of this meeting was to: Talk through our operational plans for the campus and the mitigation arrangements we have put in place to prevent transmission, providing local partners with a full overview of our operational plans; Establish, on the basis of our operational plans, the organisation-level data requirements and information gathering that will be required for test and trace and establish the confidence level we have in the integrity and supply of that data;Walk through a number of likely infection scenarios and establish any ‘gaps’ in our procedures, data gathering or operational planning that can be remedied ; Agree a consistency between the University and Staffordshire County Council SOPs, to establish a synthesised approach the management of a Covid-19 outbreak.

Weekly meetings are now scheduled with the local HPT to consider issues and trends that are emerging. These include the CRT Manager, Head of Health and Safety and Director of HR when required.

We have had confirmation of an on-campus test centre, due to be opened in the first week of the semester. The Local Testing Centre will be a walk-in facility serving the University and local community. The process of seeking approval for this test centre has been reasonably straight-forward and we have an installation date confirmed for 1 October 2020. We are however aware that the capacity at test centres and the time to subsequent result has been of increasing concern.

We will continue to monitor availability and speed of diagnosis every day. At this stage in our management plan, our preference is to use the confirmation of a positive test to instigate (with the local Health Protection Team) requirement for households and/or other high risk close contacts, to also self isolated.

Our Strategic Communications and Brand Marketing team have developed a comprehensive communications strategy and campaign for the campus. The campaign ensures that there is a consistency of message, aligning PHE messaging, to the University campaign. We have taken the approach to simplify messages as far as possible and are providing bespoke communications across a range of platforms for all identified user-groups.

Students and staff are being communicated with onthe clear expectations on them to notify the institution of any requirement to self-isolate and we will direct colleagues to the nearest test centre (likely to be on campus for many) as the first priority.

Our campaign is being linked in with neighbouring Staffordshire University, where we have released joint press-statements on the safe return to campus and our plans for contributing to keeping the region safe. We continue to link up with public health messaging for the region to ensure that staff/students who may have come into contact with settings in the local region, are alerted to any test, track and trace requirements.

We have procedures in place to publish details of Covid cases at Keele in a transparent and open way via our website, and our 24/7 365 crisis communications service is in place to deal with any media enquiries/coverage as a result of confirmed cases at Keele.

Using our 5 stage levels of operation framework, which was established on the basis of experiencing the transition into lockdown, the University is well-prepared for a transition between levels of operation across our education, research and operational delivery.

The framework is suitable to be adopted locally to establish, where required, varying levels of operation on the basis of local PHErequirements (for example one Halls of Residence or Faculty or School may be required for a period to operate at one level, with others continuing at another, depending on the scale and nature of any local outbreak) and where necessary, the whole institution can transition between levels as required.

We continue to work hard to ensure these plans are fully operational before the start of term and we recognise the potential for an outbreak in a University setting. The recent publication of SAGE and Department for Education (DfE) guidance to the sector has been mapped into the operational framework.

The operational approach

  • In the event of a suspected COVID-19 case, where a student displays symptom or is confirmed positive for COVID-19, or where a staff member has a confirmed positive test for COVID19, initial notification should be made by completing the on-line notification form which records their details and initiates the internal management response (see below).
  • If the staff or student is concerned about their symptoms, then they should contact NHS 111 or use the online NHS 111 service here: https://111.nhs.uk/covid-19/
  • If the staff or student requires immediate medical attention, they should firstly call 999 and if possible then call Security (33004) and notify of the 999 call so that Security can assist the arrival of an Ambulance if required.
  • Additional assistance or guidance between the hours of 8.00am and 8.00pm Monday – Sunday is available from the Covid Response Team: 01782 738999 and covid.response@keele.ac.uk
  • Outside of these hours the institutions established bronze, silver and gold on-call procedures apply. These are not the same as those described in this plan.
  • Suspected or confirmed cases numbers will be made available for information only to Gold, Silver and Bronze Teams via the on-line dashboard
  • Based on monitoring notifications, the CRT will specifically report any early concerns of linked cases (an outbreak or cluster) for action to PSG (Operational) Group (SILVER Team). SILVER Team may require no further action to be taken by the CRT, or for the CRT to notify high risk contacts.
  • Formal notification of suspected cases to and from the local Health Protection Team will be made via the CRT.
  • Student will be provided with advice from CRT on how to get a test using standard message template
  • If not already completed, student will be asked to complete notification form
  • CRT will instruct student to self-isolate and advise household to do the same using standard message template
  • CRT will instruct student not to return home via standard message template
  • CRT will notify Student Services via TopDesk who will prioritise vulnerable students
  • CRT will notify School Office (for information only) via standard message template
  • The Accommodation Office will notify any on-campus household to self-isolate and not return home via standard message template
  • How to access isolation support services (e.g. Arrangements for food delivery, specific support requirements) will be provided by CRT in the form of web-based information via standard message template
  • CRT will commence analysis of on-campus close contacts (household + other)
  • CRT will seek test result from student via standard message template
  • For the initial period of this plants implementation CRT will not contact any identified close contact without escalation to SILVER team
  • Formal notification of confirmed cases to and from the local Health Protection Team will be made via the CRT.
  • If negative result, CRT to instruct that requirement to self-isolate ends via standard message template
  • If negative result, CRT to instruct that requirement to self-isolate ends via standard message template
  • Student instructed to self-isolate for 10 days by CRT via standard message template
  • CRT will instruct student not to return home via standard message template
  • Household (if on campus) instructed to self-isolate for 14 days and not return home by Accommodation Office via standard message template
  • If off campus, student advised by CRT to tell household to self-isolate for 14 days via standard message template
  • CRT will notify Student Services who will prioritise vulnerable students via TopDesk
  • CRT will notify Strategic Communications and Brand team who will update website as appropriate, handle any subsequent press enquires, and monitor social media
  • How to access isolation support services (e.g. food delivery, specific support requirements) will be provided by CRT in the form of web-based information via standard message template
  • CRT will notify School Office (for information only) via standard message template
  • CRT will notify Estates & Development to arrange deep clean of any specific areas
  • CRT provide high risk close contact information to SILVER Team for (potential) action
  • CRT report early warning of outbreak/cluster concern to SILIVER Team
  • CRT respond to any Track/Trace request
  • GOLD Team notified for action if cluster/outbreak validated
  • Staff member instructed to self-isolate and arrange a test via standard message template
  • If negative result, CRT to instruct staff member that requirement to self-isolate ends via standard message template
  • Staff member asked to complete notification form by CRT
  • Instruction will be given by CRT to member of staff to self-isolate for 10 days via standard message template
  • Instruction will be given by CRT to advise their household to self-isolate via standard message template
  • CRT will notify line manager/work area (for information only) via standard message template
  • CRT will commence analysis of work-based close contacts
  • CRT report case (for information) to SILVER Team
  • CRT provide high risk close contact information to SILVER Team for action
  • CRT provide concerns of potential outbreak/cluster to SILVER Team for action
  • CRT will notify Strategic Communications and Brand team who will update website as appropriate, handle any subsequent press enquires, and monitor social media
  • CRT respond to any Track/Trace request
  • GOLD Team notified if cluster/outbreak validated
  • CRT will notify Estates & Development to arrange deep clean of any specific areas

Suspected outbreak notification provided by CRT to SILVER Team for action
• Contact to Health Protection Team (HPT) actioned by SILVER Team
• GOLD Team notified by SILVER team of suspected outbreak
• Initial response plan developed by SILVER Team and HPT (including risk assessment)
• SILVER Team refers decisions relating to major change in operations to Gold
• SILVER Team deliver planned internal and external communication

Scenario planning

A student notifies the CRT via the on-line form that they have COVID19 symptoms. The student has been socialising with a number of other students outside of their household bubble across the university campus and at their accommodation. The student has also visited three of the local pubs in the last 48 hours.

Providing the student does not require immediate medical attention, they should be instructed by the CRT to take a NHS COVID19 test. The student should self-isolate and members of the students household should also be told to isolate by the Accommodation Office (if on campus) or by the student (if off campus). Any close contacts (e.g. other households or anyone at the pub), do not need to self-isolate unless they are displaying symptoms as well.

Once the result of the test is known, the student and their household bubble can be released from self-isolation if the test is negative or have to continue to isolate if the test is positive. Provision of information on how to access isolation support services should some or all of these be required, will be provided to the student by the CRT.

The SILVER Team and School Office will be notified of the case (for information).

The CRT will identify the student’s movements on campus to consider any high-risk close contacts and provide this information to SILVER team for action. SILVER team may decide to action advice to high risk close contacts prior to NHS Test & Trace processes commencing. This could be where SILVER considered there to be a significant delay in test outcome and where the student had been in close contact with other campus-based households or in other situations where there is a high probability of infection transmission. This would be done in discussion with the local Health Protection Team. Two situations where students had been in close contact may result in different outcomes e.g. close contact in a lab where PPE was being used v. dinner in the SU between a group of 6 people not from the same household.

NHS Test and Trace will contact the student and confirm the names/contact information of any close contacts who may need to be advised to self-isolate as well. NHS will also contact any third parties, such as the pubs visited, to advise them to self-isolate or if they have anyone who is symptomatic, to be tested. NHS Test and Trace will contact the University for provision of additional information relating to close contacts, and this will be provided by the CRT.

SILVER Team will monitor capacities of internal service provision to support students (on and off campus). Any threat that capacity will or has been exhausted is likely to coincide with scenario 2 and 3. In these scenarios GOLD Team will develop the institutional response. This will be in collaboration with the local Health Protection Team.

Three students, all living in separate accommodation notify, via the on-line form, that they have tested positive for COVID19. All of the students have attended the SU Building within the last 48 hours. Students have not previously been isolating as they had not shown any symptoms.

In this instance (and in addition to the above), the positive cases may be linked due to the connection with the same building on campus. Where there are two or more confirmed cases this may be a cluster or outbreak. As well as ensuring the students and their households are self-isolating and referring the suspected outbreak to the SILVER Team, the evidence of multiple, possible linked cases will be escalated to the GOLD Team. NHS test and trace will contact the affected students and confirm the names/contact information of any close contacts, including staff members, who may need to be advised and the CRT will support this and provide information.

The GOLD Team should ensure the local Health Protection Teams have been advised and the appropriate assessment is made regarding outbreak control. The GOLD Team would also action the SILVER Team to handle the operational response, including support to students and internal and external communications.
It may be necessary for the University to move operations of some aspects of campus (including to particular buildings or accommodation) to Level 5 or those operated during Lockdown in Spring this year, as outlined in our levels of operation framework.

This scenario may include collaboration with Staffordshire University if students from both institutions are in same outbreak scenario e.g. private accommodation. GOLD Team would liaise with equivalent team(s) at Staffordshire University. This might include a decision to appoint a lead team. This would be done in collaboration with the local Health Protection Team.

The GOLD Team would lead a response to outbreak in collaboration with the local Health Protection Team.

Due to an outbreak in Newcastle-Under Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent, the Borough and City have been put into lockdown. Non-essential shops and services have been told to close and travel into/out of the affected areas has been restricted. Gatherings indoors have been banned.

University will be allowed to continue operations, subject to proving suitable outbreak control measures being in place. Students may, if living outside of the areas in lockdown, have to attend classes remotely, unless they are allowed to travel into the affected area for education purposes only.
It may be necessary for the University to move all operations to Level 5 or those operated during Lockdown in Spring this year, as outlined in our levels of operation framework.

This scenario may include collaboration with Staffordshire University if students from both institutions are in same outbreak scenario e.g. private accommodation. GOLD Team would liaise with equivalent team(s) at Staffordshire University. This might include a decision to appoint a lead team. This would be done in collaboration with the local Health Protection Team.

The Gold Team would lead the response to a sub-regional rise in infection rates requiring local lock-down measures, in collaboration with the local Health Protection Team.

Membership and contact information

Manager: Emma Woodcock
Email: covid.response@keele.ac.uk
Tel: 01782 738999

Dr Mark Bacon Chief Operating Officer(Chair)
Rachel Adams Director of Human Resource
Professor R M Ormerod Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
Phil Butters Director of Estates and Development
Paul Buttery Director of Finance
Paul Cartwright Faculty Business Manager, Faculty of Natural Sciences
Sarah Ellis CEO at Keele University Students'‚Äč Union
Dr Helen Galbraith Academic Registrar, Director of Student and Academic Services
Dr Rafe Hallett Director, KIITE
Paul Hodgkinson

Associate Director of Local Growth and Head of Strategic Project Delivery

Carol Hough Faculty Business Manager, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Katie Laverty Director of Student Services
David Myatt Faculty Business Manager, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Dan Perry Chief Information Officer
Ann Pittard Associate Director for Engagement and Partnerships
Russell Reader Associate Director of Strategic Communications & Brand Marketing
Ian Williamson Head of the Department of Occupational Health and Safety

Secretary: Jen Paddison Associate Director; Strategy and Policy
Email: j.a.paddison@keele.ac.uk
Tel: 01782 734890

Professor Trevor McMillan Vice-Chancellor (Chair)
Professor R M Ormerod Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Provost
Dr Mark Bacon Chief Operating Officer
Rachel Adams Director of Human Resource
Professor Helen O'Sullivan PVC Education
Paul Buttery Director of Finance

Secretary: Jen Paddison Associate Director; Strategy and Policy
Email: j.a.paddison@keele.ac.uk
Tel: 01782 734890