It’s the final week before the majority of Stags return to Fairfield, and students are preparing to face the new regulations put in place by the University to combat COVID-19 on campus. Fairfield has implemented many new measures to ensure the safety of both students and staff for the upcoming semester, many of which will require some adjustment for Stags both on and off campus.
In July, Fairfield created a checklist for students to complete prior to their return to campus. The Stags Come Home Checklist is essential for all returning students to complete, complemented by a similar and more detailed checklist for first-year and transfer students who will be arriving on campus for the first time. The checklist includes certain items that are fairly standard for returning students, mirroring similar tasks in the past such as updating emergency contact information, Title IX and hazing training modules and signing the University honor code. An updated Health and Wellness section has been added to the checklist which requires that all returning students either provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test up to 14 days prior to their return to campus, or if not able to secure their own testing at home, to participate in a COVID-19 nasal swab test on campus on their move-in date before they physically move in to their residence.
William Johnson, the Dean of Students, stressed how essential the Stags Come Home Checklist is for students’ return to campus.
“COVID-19 testing and the submission of immunization records by new students (i.e. first-year and transfer students) are the most crucial parts of the checklist,” Johnson said. “Students will not be able to access campus without completion of these two items. It is crucial that students read and understand the COVID-19 Student Directives and honor the Social Pledge created by our student leaders.”
Fairfield has also put new COVID-specific requirements and procedures in place that need to be strictly followed and enforced in order for campus to remain open. All students will be required to wear face masks at all times, except for when they are in the privacy of their own university residence or eating in the various dining venues located across campus. Students are only permitted to have up to two guests in their residences. These guests must be students who also live in on-campus housing. For example, in a dorm room with two residents, only up to two other students who also live in on-campus housing are allowed in that dorm room at a time. Furthermore, gatherings of more than 10 people inside or outside are prohibited unless the event is registered and approved with the appropriate office of the University. Social distancing measures as well as mask wearing are expected and required for all social gatherings.
Fairfield has also put procedures in place for the possibility of students contracting COVID-19. Students and employees will be required to complete a daily COVID-19 health monitoring and symptom reporting questionnaire using the LiveSafe app and may be asked to provide proof of completion while on campus. If any of these daily health questionnaires are COVID-19 positive responses, proper action will be taken which may include communication with the Health Center, isolation or quarantining. Isolation rooms have been created for quarantining in the old Dolan School of Business. In the case of isolation or quarantine, students will not be permitted to leave their rooms until they test negative for COVID-19. Fairfield will also be conducted weekly nasal swab testing of a randomly selected 5-10% of students and employees.
Despite new measures being put in place by universities throughout the country, many have already been forced to shut down and move classes strictly online due to outbreaks of COVID-19 cases across campuses. According to CNN, more than 400 confirmed COVID-19 cases have occurred on Notre Dame University’s campus since their reopening in mid-August and the number continues to grow. ND moved to a two-week online learning period, allowing students to remain on campus while cancelling in-person classes for the time being.
Johnson agrees that if COVID cases spike, this may need to happen at Fairfield as well.
“We would love to see our campus full of activity and buzzing with energy for the entire fall semester. But if we experience a spike in positive COVID-19 cases, or there is a spike in Fairfield County as there was in the spring, there is the likelihood that we will have to move to remote instruction and send students home,” he said.
Due to the possibility of having to shut down if COVID-19 cases spike, Fairfield U plans to be much more strict regarding discipline over failure to follow the new COVID-19 guidelines, especially in terms of social gatherings.
According to Johnson, the Department of Public Safety will be more involved in on-campus disciplinary actions for any infractions to the COVID-19 guidelines.
“It is going to take the entire campus to uphold and enforce these new guidelines. Enforcement will be consistent with our process in previous years. Public Safety and Residence Life staff members will be monitoring the campus in accordance with their existing practices,” he said. “We have hired additional Public Safety officers to assist with this activity during the first several weeks of the semester. The Fairfield Police Department will also have additional patrols in place as well.”
Johnson is optimistic that the campus will remain open as long as students and staff take special care to keep themselves and others safe from the virus.
“If students and other members of the University community follow the directives that have been outlined, I believe we can keep the number of positive cases under control,” he said.