Since March of last year, we have been on quite a journey. What started as news of a new virus outbreak in Wuhan, China slowly turned into one of the worst pandemics in over a century. Lockdowns, quarantine and isolation have become the norm in society, and it’s safe to say that ever since March of 2020, the world has never been the same. Now, with over a year of experiencing this pandemic and two million deaths worldwide attributed to the virus, it seems like a good time to walk through Fairfield University’s COVID-19 regulations for 2021: What restrictions have they put in place, how do they plan to further mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on campus and have their efforts been effective? Are their regulations productive, or are they unusable?
The University began the Spring 2021 semester by implementing a new two-phase move-in plan; students placed within Phase One moved in between Jan. 21 and 23 and Phase Two students moved on campus Jan. 30 and 31. While simple, it was an effective strategy to reduce contact between students. By staggering incoming students, they allowed for less contact between groups who were transporting their belongings and it effectively reduced the surge of students returning to campus.
Another precaution they have taken is the implementation of the LiveSafe app, making it mandatory for students, faculty and staff to fill out a daily health monitoring questionnaire. Unfortunately, this app does not serve much purpose when protecting students from COVID-19 exposure. My first criticism is that it is easy to lie when filling out the form, and it isn’t uncommon for students to use screenshots of previously filled out forms. Secondly, most people who contract the virus are asymptomatic between 2-14 days after exposure; during this period, they are still effectively contagious, so whether or not they are feeling healthy is a low-standard to rely on for personal protection.
One of the most useful pieces of information available on the University’s website is their COVID-19 Daily Dashboard. This page allows you to see the COVID-19 Status Level of the campus and gives a detailed account of faculty and student tests given versus how many tests came back positive. While it is one of the most important and influential pages, it can also be deceiving.
I would like to compare the 2020 and 2021 dashboard notes, especially relating to how they defined surveillance testing. For 2021, the surveillance testing is defined as a process that, “Includes 100 percent of the campus community per week for those who are learning or working on campus.” The 2020 surveillance testing, however, was defined as one which, “Includes purely random sample testing across the campus community.” While this is a small difference in wording, it defines a completely different approach to testing. I highly criticize their 2020 surveillance testing because it did not include 100 percent of the population at Fairfield, which led to massive repercussions relating to the number of cases on campus. However, now that they have taken the initiative to test everyone on campus, I predict that the spread of the virus across the campus will be highly reduced.
Another important note is that they have increased the number of available quarantine rooms from 114 to 175. In 2020, they relied more heavily on hotels: their housing was split between 64 rooms located in the Conference Center and 50 hotel rooms located in the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport, CT. In 2021 they have shifted to 128 rooms on campus and 47 hotel rooms.
Overall, I am quite pleased with the steps Fairfield has taken to improve security on-campus and work to reduce the spread of the virus. However, it is not just Fairfield University regulations that play a huge role in the mitigation of an outbreak. A major uncontrollable aspect is the student body. Fairfield has put in place consequences for students who break the rules they have set. If you are found breaking any of the regulations that Fairfield has set forth, it is very possible that they will remove you from campus and force you to continue the rest of your semester online. In extreme cases, Fairfield has made it clear that expulsion and dismissal from the University are viable options.
Despite these consequences, it is still common to see students, and occasionally faculty and staff members, taking a lax approach towards following the guidelines set by the University. For campus to remain COVID-19 free, there must not only be strict regulation put in place, but also a student body who is willing to follow the guidelines set by the University.