Many colleges nationwide, including Fairfield University, provide an online COVID Dashboard for students, faculty and staff to stay up to date on active positive cases on campus. Other important information regarding current policies may be published there as well. 

Looking nearby Fairfield, Sacred Heart University, the University of Connecticut and Quinnipiac University are three additional campuses whose COVID Dashboards aim to inform individuals about current active cases around campus. Each platform, however, appears different in design and in the amount of information provided. 

Last week, The Mirror reported that following student concerns on a lack of transparency with COVID-19 repopulation testing data, the University added a “Current Testing Data” section to Fairfield’s COVID dashboard, further stating that a “7 Day Rolling Average” would begin on Feb. 11. 

At the top of Fairfield’s COVID Dashboard, the University’s campus COVID-19 alert level is displayed as green, meaning there are currently very few levels of incidence of COVID-19. As of Feb. 14, there were 18 positive cases reported to the University, three of which remain active on campus. Below this data, a graphic can be seen displaying the seven-day rolling average, which appears to be low and decreasing. 

Nowhere on the University’s dashboard does it state how regularly the current testing data is updated. The only information similar to this that is shared is that the University’s green alert level has been updated as of Feb. 11. 

Sacred Heart displays their dashboard, which includes slightly more transparency. Sacred Heart is located on the border of Bridgeport, Conn. and Fairfield, Conn. and is so close that it shares the town of Fairfield with Fairfield students. 

Sacred Heart’s COVID Dashboard states that there are 10 current positive cases on campus as of Feb. 14, directly specifying that current cases include on-campus and off-campus students, as well as faculty and staff. Thus, it appears their Covid-19 numbers are lower than Fairfield’s even though Sacred Heart has 6,071 full-time undergraduate students, whereas Fairfield reports having only 4,486 full-time undergraduate students as of Oct. 1, 2021. 

Every Friday Fairfield University updates their COVID dashboard. Last Friday, Feb 11 there were 18 positive cases and three active positive cases on campus.
Quinnipiac University’s COVID Dashboard states that there are 22 current active cases on campus and that there have been 24 new cases in the last seven days. It is stated that this date was last updated Feb. 14 and is regularly updated every Monday. Further, it is clearly stated that their COVID Dashboard “reflects cases reported through a combination of the required weekly testing for unvaccinated students, testing performed through Student Health Services, and students who report the results of their self-administered tests.”

Fairfield’s COVID Dashboard does not directly state results from which population is reflected in the data. This again leads students to question transparency, as reported by The Mirror last week.

At the very top of UConn’s COVID Dashboard, it states “UConn is committed to transparency in communicating information on COVID-19 to our community. This dashboard is designed to clearly, concisely and accurately reflect the health of our campuses.” 

As of Feb. 9, the current Storrs COVID-19 alert level is orange, which is described as moderate. Out of the 10,741 residential students on Storrs campus, which is the main one, there are 11 reported positive cases on Storrs campus. The dashboard also states that this makes for a 0.10% positive rate amid the residential student population. Thus, transmission is low as reflected by the data shared. 

Although the previous data for all four universities suggests ranking these universities in order of least to most positive cases on campus as: Sacred Heart, UConn, Fairfield and then Quinnipiac – the dates of when the information was updated last differs for each. Thus, making an accurate comparison between the four impossible. 

One way to gauge potential differences that are reflected in the previous data from each dashboard is by looking at the current testing policies of each university in the face of new eligibility for boosters. .

After almost a full year of COVID-19 vaccine distribution, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most commonly referred to as the CDC, expanded eligibility to all adults for booster shots. As of Nov. 19, 2021, any individual of eighteen years or older who received a Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccine could elect to receive a booster dose six months after their second dose of the vaccine. 

Based off the current definition of “fully vaccinated” from the CDC, such exempt individuals were those who received their second dose in a two-shot series of Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna vaccines at least two weeks prior to testing, or a single dose of J&J/Janssen vaccine at least two weeks prior. This definition has not changed from the CDC with new eligibility of a booster shot. Instead, the CDC distinguishes between being “fully vaccinated” and “optimally protected.” To be optimally protected, one must have received their booster dose. 

Fairfield’s Quarantine, Isolation and Testing Protocols chart distinguishes COVID-19 university protocols between three subsets of an individual’s level of protection: optimal, sub-optimal and minimal/none. 

Optimal protection, according to this chart, is receival of a booster shot when eligible or fully vaccinated, as described by the CDC, within the past six months for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, or within the past two months for the J&J vaccine. Sub-optimal protection is distinguished as eligible candidates for a booster who still have not received one and minimal/none protection describes those unvaccinated, with their primary vaccination series incomplete or those “not yet two weeks out from the last dose in series.” 

Looking at Fairfield University, fully vaccinated students, faculty and staff of the University were exempt from weekly COVID-19 testing in the Leslie C. Quick, Jr. Recreation Complex, following return to the fall 2021 semester. Only unvaccinated and partially vaccinated members of the University were required to undergo weekly testing, as well as any individuals deemed close contacts to a COVID-19 positive student.

This spring 2022 semester, Fairfield COVID-19 weekly surveillance testing policies have changed from the previous fall with new eligibility for boosters. Published under the “Frequently Asked Questions” tab found on Fairfield University’s website platform “Healthy Fairfield,” booster eligible community members who have not received their booster shot are required to participate in weekly surveillance testing. 

Unvaccinated or partially vaccinated undergraduates must participate in twice a week testing on Tuesdays and Fridays, and unvaccinated or partially vaccinated employees must participate in weekly testing.

Fairfield sophomore student Elizabeth Decrisanti says, “With COVID cases skyrocketing over winter break, I was honestly shocked with how little the school had done upon our return to campus in comparison to other Connecticut colleges.”

Sacred Heart takes a different approach. Unlike Fairfield, Sacred Heart students and faculty on campus are required to receive their booster shot

Sacred Heart sophomore student Samuel Eaton is pleased with the University’s booster mandate. “It makes me feel safer knowing that Sacred Heart is handling the COVID-19 virus with such diligence,” says Eaton.  

Sacred Heart University’s Coronavirus page states that unvaccinated or partially vaccinated students will be tested weekly, however vaccinated students will be exempt unless experiencing symptoms or deemed a close contact. This page also shares that testing takes place from 8:30 to noon Monday through Thursday, which is twice as many days as Fairfield currently offers. 

“Sacred Heart is handling the COVID-19 virus very well,” says Eaton.

“It was amazing to see how they were able to control such an unruly and widespread contagion.” 

Another Sacred heart student Katelyn Boudreau ‘24 shares a different response. “Honestly it’s kind of messed up,” she says, “people [who are] vaccinated don’t get tested more than sometimes once a month and people not vaccinated get tested once a week.” 

 “People giving COVID to others are the vaccinated ones. They don’t really care if we pull our masks down in the halls or walk around the dorms without them,” Boudreau says. 

Quinnipiac at first did not mandate the booster shot for students, however according to their COVID-19 and Vaccine Resources website page, all students who are currently vaccinated are now required to receive their booster shot prior to Feb. 15.

This page also states that two on-campus booster clinics were held on Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 for students and employees, as well as that exempt unvaccinated students who have been approved by the University will participate in weekly on-campus testing. On-campus testing is run through Student Health Services, according to the University’s site. 

Quinnipiac sophomore student Olivia Pisegna did not mind the booster mandate, since she planned on receiving the shot anyways. “I think the reason our numbers are so low is because of the plan set in place,” she says. 

“We have to wear a mask while we’re in class, the student center and the library,” Pisegna says, “I’m interested in seeing if the restrictions will be loosened because the mask mandate is ending at the end of the month.” 

UConn also requires “students who will be enrolled and attending class at any of the five campuses, including Storrs, Avery Point, Hartford, Stamford and Waterbury for the spring 2022 semester” to have received their booster, according to the University’s Student Health and Wellness page under the Division of Student Affairs. It is also stated that exemptions are possible for approval pertaining to medical and nonmedical religious reasons only. 

Also on this page, information is shared regarding testing strategies for students. At-home antigen tests will be limitedly available at the Student Union Information Center Monday-Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., as well as through the SHaW Pharmacy Online Marketplace. Students are permitted one at-home test and must bring their student ID upon pick-up. Storrs residential students may also contact their Hall Director to receive a test kit. 

Listed below “2021-2022 Testing Strategy” on the website, it states “All Storrs-based students who are not fully vaccinated will be required to submit unobserved, self-collected, surveillance testing kits on a weekly basis. Students who do not submit their required testing kits will be subject to registration holds and will be blocked from the Rec Center.” Those who are symptomatic, regardless of vaccination status, should call the Advice Nurse at 860-486-4700, who is available 24/7 seven days a week. 

UConn sophomore residential student Allison Slitt says, “Coming back to UConn, I was very worried that I would catch COVID within the first couple of weeks and I was definitely more cautious at first.”  

“I am now, however, more comfortable and excited to be back in my community, and I have not heard of COVID peaks at Storrs campus,” Slitt says.  

There are more details regarding COVID-19 policies throughout the spring 2022 semester on each university’s web page. Other areas of focus include quarantine protocol, isolation precautions in alignment with vaccination status, and mask-wearing. 

Fairfield University is the only of these four colleges in Connecticut to still not require a booster for students, faculty and staff. 

Our campus levels are low as of Feb. 11, however, and the University remains within the green level, suggesting very low incidence of COVID-19 on campus. 

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