Across the country, the Omicron variant of COVID-19 still spreading with many colleges and universities seeing the direct impact of returning to class in person. Fairfield University has yet to publish results from their COVID-19 testing process, but the University’s COVID Dashboard is set to resume weekly updates on Feb. 4, over two weeks after students returned to campus.
Junior and senator for the Fairfield University Student Association, Vincent Rotondo, stated that in the General Senate Meeting last Wednesday, Jan. 26, it was announced that at that time there were 150 positive cases from the start of the semester.
“When I was first informed of the positive cases, I instantly felt angered that I was not made aware,” Rotondo said. “Likewise, messages that have been communicated to the student body pertaining to COVID have all been positive.”
He continued saying, “150 positives is not worthy of a positive remark, hence something needs to systematically change for a proper semester.”
As of Jan. 31, no students are currently utilizing the emergency quarantine housing located in the Conference Center, but Director of Conference Event & Management Christina Hill said “we’ve had 15 students spend at least one night in isolation at the Conference Center. We’ve also had a number of students utilize the isolation waiting room which is a space at the Conference Center where positive students can stay while waiting for a ride.”
Hill continued that they don’t keep track of the students utilizing the isolation waiting room, but “it has been used fairly regularly.”
Jenn Anderson, Vice President of Marketing & Communication for Fairfield University stated that the repopulation testing resulted in a 9% positivity rate “which was below the local average at that time and was successful in identifying positive individuals prior to move-in.”
As of Feb. 1, the overall positivity rate on campus is less than 1% Anderson shared.
However, Anderson failed to clarify who was calculated in the total percentage. If Anderson meant 1% of all students, then 53 students would be positive out of the 5,826. If she meant staff and students, that number would be around 69 according to Fairfield’s reported community size of 6,910, not the 150 previously reported at the General Senate Meeting.
Many students believe that the University should release COVID-19 numbers earlier than Feb. 4.
Senior Jean Johnson stated, “I was surprised to see that the University is waiting until Feb. 4 to update the COVID Testing Dashboard considering repopulation testing began over two weeks prior.”
Senior Olivia Burke agrees and states that “I think the University should be more transparent with the students about the number of covid cases on campus, I don’t see why they would wait to release the covid numbers if not to avoid causing concern.”
When asked if Burke thinks COVID cases are increasing across campus she said, “Yes based on what I’ve heard from the people around me, two of my roommates tested positive last week, and other people I’ve talked to have mostly all either contracted covid or have been contact traced.”
Sophomore Connor Padover added that he didn’t know where to find the current number of positive cases since the dashboard has not been updated.
“I think the University could definitely improve their communication with the number of positive cases as I know in the past they have been pretty slow with the releasing of information and I would want to know as recent of information as possible,” Padover said, continuing, “I do have friends who currently have COVID, and while I have heard good reviews of interactions with the health center to notify them of when they test positive, the health center could do better on communication with students after they test positive so that the students know when they can return to campus and/or what actions need to be taken.”
Senior and FUSA Senator Jakob Matala adds that he wishes Fairfield was publishing the results as frequently as they were given last year. Especially due to the lack of weekly testing, “…it would be helpful for students to be updated on university Covid cases in order to understand the direction the school is going on in terms of Covid policies.”
One of the concerns felt by students is the confusion surrounding the usage of Zoom during the semester.
Junior Alyssa O’Keefe stated that she is worried that “since the Omicron variant is so contagious, testing positive for COVID could set her back in her classes.”
When asked about the no-Zoom policy that was in place last semester, Anderson said, “throughout the past two years, Fairfield has prioritized the academic continuity of our students and the health and safety of our campus community and will continue to do so throughout the Spring semester.”
However, she failed to address what this means should a student or professor test positive this semester.
Many professors have opted to hold class over Zoom until repopulation testing results were posted. This means that for more than two weeks some professors have utilized Zoom to meet with their students.
Senior Vincent Gadioma had two classes start online this semester.
“The professors both cited reasons related to COVID,” Gadioma said. “I think going into it I respected their decisions knowing cases were bad and repopulation testing hadn’t started, but I am hoping to get back in person as soon as possible so I can get the full in-classroom experience.”
The Mirror will continue to update on the matter as more information is made available and the results are released Feb. 4.