After a school year filled with uncertainty in 2020, the Fall 2021 semester is shaping up to be much more COVID-19 friendly on Fairfield University’s campus. With widespread access to the COVID-19 vaccine in the United States, the spread of the virus has declined greatly
Compared to last year, the restrictions brought along by the spread of the pandemic have ultimately loosened with time.
In the 2020-21 school year, multiple changes could be seen around campus, most obviously the usage of masks. Last year, Fairfield University enforced a policy which required all students to wear a mask, inside or outside, unless they were inside of their own residence.
Looking into today’s policy, however, the rules are not so strict. The 2021-2022 Student Handbook, which can be found on Fairfield University’s website, outlines these rules; the “COVID-19 Student Directives” tab of the website states that “Students are required to wear a mask which covers the nose and mouth while indoors.”
As the Pfizer-Biotech, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines became more available, the University overturned mask-wearing while outdoors, but emphasized in their directives that the indoor mask-wearing would continue.
On Fairfield University’s website as well is a page dedicated to “Frequently Asked Questions” about COVID-19 rules, which were updated for the beginning of the 2021-22 academic year. According to that page, all students, regardless of vaccination status, were required to declare their vaccination status before coming to campus.
Fairfield University did not mandate a vaccine, but strongly encouraged students to receive it.
As of Friday, Oct. 22, 2021, Fairfield University’s campus community, which is made up of both students, staff and faculty members, is 93.1% documented vaccinated, with only 23 documents pending, according to the “Campus Testing and Reporting” dashboard found on the Fairfield University webpage. Including those pending vaccination statuses, the campus community would be 93.5 percent vaccinated.
On Oct. 30, 2020, a few days over one year ago, Vice President of Student Life Karen Donoghue sent out a message to all students stating that Connecticut was put on the list of “hot-spot states” which saw a rapid spike in the number of confirmed COVID cases.
In this communication, it was made clear that students who returned home to a hot-spot state for Thanksgiving break would not be able to return for the remainder of the semester. The University eventually took away the option to return to campus after Thanksgiving break altogether due to a rise in cases.
Only a week before, the Office of the Dean of Students was in contact with students as well about the situation in Fairfield relating to the state as a whole. On October 22, 2020, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont placed the towns of Fairfield and Norwalk on a “red-alert” list to show the severity of the spread of COVID-19.
This same email expressed Dean of Students William Johnson’s concerns over the prospect of off campus gatherings for Halloween. Around this time last year, it appeared as though the spike in cases had passed, even though the university remained in “code orange,” indicating a moderate risk of COVID-19 on campus based on case numbers.
While the number of positive COVID-19 cases continued to rise around this time last year, this year looks much different.
“We will continue to evolve and plan as needed to adapt to the ambient environment, and are pleased to share that our current case count is at zero,” Vice President of Marketing and Communications Jennifer Anderson stated.
For Fairfield University, the COVID-19 situation began to look much more promising around May 2021, where a campus-wide vaccination center was set up. As COVID-19 knowledge progresses, Fairfield University is “working through plans to host an additional vaccination and booster clinic this semester” according to Anderson.
In the “Campus testing and reporting” tab of fairfield.edu, archived data about COVID-19 can be found from each semester of last school year, as well as more information about COVID-19 in this current semester.