COVID-19 spring semester edition
Abby Epstein – Managing Editor
Unpredictable and uncertainty are two words to describe this school year. The university continues to make ever-evolving decisions concerning COVID-19.
Residential students are receiving COVID-19 tests weekly and are no longer allowed to have guests over from other residence halls. Commuter students are also being tested more frequently.
“We didn’t make up our rules, the Department of Public Health gave us the guidelines that we are following,” said Tracy Tyree vice president of student affairs. “I think all of the protocols are really important, reflecting what we anticipated which is that it’s [COVID-19] transmitting at a higher rate.”
The four Connecticut universities follow the same guidelines provided by the Department of Public Health after reviewing and discussing with each university system office.
One suggestion was to test as many students as possible and “testing residential students was kinda not questioned,” said Tyree.
According to Tyree that the talk was starting in the spring semester, as if picking up where the University left off at Thanksgiving break. According to Tyree, few faculty and staff members thought campus would stay open until Thanksgiving.
“I will tell you candidly I know many people, faculty and staff who not literally placed bets but figuratively bet that we never would never make it to Thanksgiving,” said Tyree. “So, in that way, I think for many we did a lot better than we anticipated because it felt like it was going to be hard to manage.”
Faculty and staff were not the only ones who did not think the semester would last until Thanksgiving break. Students were also skeptical about starting the semester out, not knowing how long it would be before they were sent home.
“Last semester, I didn’t expect our school to handle COVID-19 so well. I figured I’d be home a couple of months into the semester and before Thanksgiving,” said chemistry major Harrison Stoffel, a senior.
Business management major Kevin Landrigan, a senior, also did not think the semester would last until Thanksgiving. He and Stoffel were both surprised at how well the school handled COVID-19.
“It was definitely a nice surprise to see all the work that was done to keep Southern an enjoyable yet safe campus during a pandemic,” said Landrigan.
Returning to campus this spring, all students still need to stay aware and continue to follow all the protocols that were put in place last semester.
“We will need to be careful in terms of our masking, our contact, our cleanliness, all of those things we’ve been paying attention too, we need to up that,” said Tyree.
Tyree said the guidelines could be subject to change this March or April depending on what the Department of Public Health recommends.
“We will continue to be cautious. Right now, the guidance takes us through the end of February in terms of limited interactions,” said Tyree.
The state has been asking colleges and universities to be the locations of testing sites. Southern wants to make sure they are doing everything to make the students, faculty and staff feel safe. Which is one reason they did not offer any space on campus to be used as a COVID-19 testing location.
Another reason is that the testing requirements for an area being on campus cannot include a carpet room. There is a certain ventilation standard, and there must be an entrance and an exit, you cannot have one pathway.
“We don’t really have many spaces that meet those requirements,” said Tyree, “but again, bringing community members into our buildings or into our spaces when we’re on campus feels like it would be hard to our campus community with their sense of comfort and safety.”
“COVID-19 burnout” is a term Tyree used to describe how she understands people are getting tired given the circumstances. She said she wants people to remember there is a light at the end of the tunnel but that will only happen in a healthy and positive way.
“I would like to acknowledge to our campus community that this is difficult” said Tyree. “I know people are getting tired of this and I would just really ask that people hold tight because the better we can do in the next few months, the sooner we get to the other side of this in some way.”