The Executive Director of Residential Life, Pamela D. Schipani, Ed.D., recently reflected upon the success of the spring semester residential quarantine, which ran from Jan. 15 to Jan. 31, and what changes needed to be made since last semester’s similar two-week quarantine.
Dr. Schipani provided the many steps taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus and what needed to change between this residential quarantine and the last residential quarantine. In terms of arrival testing, students had to perform two tests, one before arrival and one at arrival, unlike last semester, which only required one arrival test. Dr. Schipani said as last semester progressed, it increasingly looked like more had to be done.
“We thought that that was a really good process, and we were just going to do that, but as the fall progressed in November we saw an uptick in cases and then the country saw a huge uptick in cases after Thanksgiving and then after the winter holidays and so the Department of Public Health said, ‘we want you to test everyone before they arrive and also test when they arrive, because your test is only as good as that day,’” Dr. Schipani said.
Dr. Schipani also addressed the change in room guest policy, which last semester permitted one guest but now does not permit any room guests.
“In talking with colleagues across the country, many institutions said absolutely no guests ever, and we allowed one guest and for the most part it was okay,” Dr. Schipani said. “What we found was that when we would have an incident of higher infection rates in a building it was often because students were in a room together, even though there’s only supposed to be one, there was often more than one … it was when they were close together without masks.”
However, Dr. Schipani acknowledged this action may have disappointed students and stressed the measure is not permanent and could change.
“It’s always difficult to say you can’t do something, but it is easier to do it at the start of a semester and then as we progress, if we continue to have a low rate of transmission, then we can always lift that, we could always change that, but it is impossible to say, ‘okay you can have a guest and now you can’t,’” Dr. Schipani said.
Another change between this semester and last semester is the addition of pool sample testing, which Dr. Schipani said was crucial to campus safety this semester.
“That was so successful, in terms of, before anything happened, we would be able to look at an area and say we need to pool more people in here, we need to identify who’s the positive case in a pool,” Dr. Schipani said. “You need to figure out the way to test students who are coming onto campus … at least through February, because based on the holidays and all the travel that took place, those would be significant months.”
Another measure taken by the university was to provide more possible quarantine spaces. Through this action, the Charter Oaks Apartments were completely reserved for medical quarantine. Dr. Schipani explained how the decision was made and why Charter Oaks Apartments was chosen specifically.
“Then we had to look for places with a lot of bathrooms because we don’t want that many people sharing bathrooms, so we knew we could fill up Hilltop Apartments with Charter Oaks Apartment students if we had to empty Charter Oaks, and so we did,” Dr. Schipani said.
Ultimately, Dr. Schipani thought the changes made between this semester and last semester were necessary and resulted in a more successful outcome.
“I think there was some good things that happened in terms of what we learned in the fall, but also some things we knew we had to do differently,” Dr. Schipani said. “We have a semester of experience behind us and are very efficient in detecting positive cases and taking the necessary steps to isolate and quarantine.”