UConn medical professionals weigh in on UConn’s reopening plan

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It has been 85 days since the University of Connecticut released their reopening plan and 17 days since the Storrs campus finished move-in. Since then, UConn’s residential COVID-19 testing positivity rate has risen to around 1%. The Daily Campus spoke with medical professionals in the UConn community about their thoughts on the reopening. 

Elyssa Eror is the medical director of Student Health and Wellness (SHaW). Eror played a large role in consulting for the administration during the crafting of their reopening plan.  

Photo Courtesy of UConn Student Health and Wellness (SHaW)

“Student Health and Wellness – Medical Care worked in collaboration with The Connecticut Department of Public Health, our local Eastern Highlands Health Department and our partners at UConn Health to be able to meet the anticipated needs of our incoming and returning students,” Eror said in an email. “This encompassed both arrival testing of residential students and ongoing surveillance testing that will continue throughout the semester.” 

Eror emphasized the importance of the students’ role in the reopening plan.  

“Adherence to the guidelines for physical distancing, wearing of masks or face coverings, with frequent handwashing and the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizer is crucial to maintaining a healthy residential population specifically and campus population generally,” Eror said. “These are considered ‘control measures’ and are the most effective ways to decrease spread of the virus. They are extremely low-tech yet highly effective in stopping the spread of the virus and are critical to maintaining a healthy population.” 

Photo Courtesy of Medecins San Frontieres. A brief visual guideline on COVID control measures

The UConn administration only consulted with Storrs campus professionals in addition to UConn Health professors and medical professionals, including David Banach. 

Banach is Head of Infection Prevention and Hospital Epidemiologist at UConn Health. Banach explained that with the onset of the virus this past spring, UConn Health had to come up with COVID-19 policies with relative urgency. However, this proved to be useful as it gave UConn Health professionals insight into what worked for UConn’s campus reopening plan.  

“In the hospital world in March and April, we saw such a big challenge with COVID in the community and the hospital. But at that point, the university was all remote,” Banach said. “Now, that university is restarting, and some of the topics that the university is going through are things we went through as an organization back in the spring.” 

According to Banach, the strength in UConn’s reopening plan comes from its diversity of perspectives. 

“It’s very multidisciplinary, which is really going to be critical in order to have a successful plan,” Banach said.  

Still, Banach said the plan isn’t flawless.  

“I think you know anytime that you’re reopening a university, there’s going to be challenges. There are going to be some aspects that are going to be tough to predict and you’re gonna have to respond to them,” Banach said.  

“I think you know anytime that you’re reopening a university, there’s going to be challenges. There are going to be some aspects that are going to be tough to predict and you’re gonna have to respond to them,”

To Banach, the most important part of UConn’s reopening plan was everyone’s willingness to cooperate and contribute to each part of the plan.  

“You can’t just do one part of it and not do the other parts of the plan. There’s this idea that if we all wear masks, we don’t have to worry about these other aspects, like the handwashing, the distancing, the testing, quarantining and isolation. But you have to do it all together in order to be successful,” Banach said.  

“You can’t just do one part of it and not do the other parts of the plan. There’s this idea that if we all wear masks, we don’t have to worry about these other aspects, like the handwashing, the distancing, the testing, quarantining and isolation. But you have to do it all together in order to be successful,”

Eror also emphasized the importance of each UConn community member doing their part to keep others safe. 

“The plan depends on all of us to be responsible members of the community to keep each other safe and our campus,” Eror said. “It may not be easy, but it is what is necessary during these unprecedented times. Keep your UConn promise. We cannot succeed without you.”

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