President Joe Biden recently declared “the pandemic is over” in an interview with 60 Minutes. His statement, along with the continuous downward trend of COVID cases that have occurred during the summer, has made many believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is a thing of the past.
At Fairfield University, that belief is translated into the elimination of weekly testing for unvaccinated or asymptomatic students; the low prevalence of mask usage between students, faculty members and other employees; and the reinstatement of in-person, full-capacity sports and extracurricular activities.
For many, the first activity that hinted at a return of normalcy for the fall semester to the Fairfield campus was the celebration of the overnight First-Year Orientation hosted during the last two weeks of June 2022. The event, as a Mirror article from June 2022 highlighted, was the first to be celebrated since the summer of 2019.
Then, three weeks into the fall semester an email from the university’s Dean of Students, William Johnson, Ph.D. informed students of the existence of multiple active cases of COVID-19 on campus.
According to Johnson’s communication, during the week of Sept. 28, Fairfield University had a total of 16 active cases of Covid, with 15 attributed to students and one to an employee of the university. He also stated that during the previous week, the university had detected 39 cases.
“I think that they are pretty good and manageable, considering how many people there are on campus and that no one is wearing masks,” said first-year resident Johanna Lydon when asked about her thoughts on the amount of COVID cases reported by Dean Johnson.
For sophomore student Lauren Trymbulak, the re-emergence of COVID is something she has witnessed first-hand. “Our whole group of guy friends just recovered from COVID, three of them had it, and I’ve heard of many more cases on campus.”
Even though the cases of COVID have not caused major disruptions affecting classes or school programming, the deadline to make changes to the meal plan had to be changed due to a COVID case in the StagCard Office and a record number of upgrades.
“Since the StagCard Office was closed the majority of last week (thanks, Covid!) the deadline for meal plan changes has been extended to Wednesday, September 21,” read an email sent to students on Sept. 19 informing them of the changes.
Now, the focus turns to the Presidential Ball which gathered 2,800 students on Bellarmine Lawn. The celebration, hosted by the Fairfield University Student Association on Sept. 30 marked the biggest outdoor gathering of students since the Activities Fair and Move-In weekend.
“Pres Ball was a slight concern, but hopefully since most of our campus is vaccinated I’m not as worried,” said sophomore student Sara Rush regarding the possibility of more cases emerging after the past weekend’s Presidential Ball, which returned to full capacity this year.
First-year student and Pres Ball attendee Lacey Noto shared a similar perspective about the chances of getting COVID after going to the highly anticipated social gathering. To her, getting the virus “could happen anywhere because we see these people all the time so it doesn’t matter.”
In a statement to The Mirror, FUSA echoed these sentiments.
“We, as a student association, are not concerned about this year’s Presidential Ball impacting the number of positive cases on campus,” FUSA stated, “With the recent downward trend of active cases over the last several weeks (39 active cases 2 weeks ago to 16 active cases last week), we are confident that Pres Ball will not contribute to any significant rise in cases on campus.”
According to data obtained from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Fairfield County saw an increase in daily Covid cases from Sept. 10 to Sept. 30. Currently, the CDC has Fairfield County ranked as a “medium” risk on its COVID-19 community level.
The Mirror made a request to the Director of the Student Health Center, Julia Duffy, regarding statistics on COVID cases since the start of the Fall semester. The office did not make available the information and referred the request to Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Anderson, who did not respond in time for publication.