By Kelsey Braun ’22, Staff Writer
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed what living on campus looks like for students this semester at St. John Fisher College. Much like other colleges and universities around the world, Fisher has put into place new rules and regulations to ensure the health and safety of the students.
Over the summer, a task force of 60 faculty and staff worked to create a plan to reopen campus that is safe and encourages social distancing. This semester, students should expect to see room capacity limits, enhanced cleaning and disinfection and restrictions on non-essential gatherings and visitors.
A greater measure that is being taken to monitor and lower the risk of the virus spreading is the testing of the wastewater in residential housing. The residential halls have been broken down into four areas. Each week, the wastewater is being tested for any traces of COVID-19. So far, since moving back on campus, one of the areas has already shown traces of the virus and necessary actions have since begun.
In-house saliva screening in a lab at the Wegmans School of Pharmacy is the first step to monitoring students living in the affected residence halls. “I am really proud and appreciative of the scientists on campus who brought this process to us as a possibility and who are making it happen,” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Matha Thornton. Once saliva screening results come back, the COVID-19 response team has a better idea of which students might be more at risk. Students will then isolate off campus if the screening process indicates that they do need a COVID test.
As for off-campus visitors, only residential students will be permitted in the residence halls. “We are really trying to keep the campus as de-densified as possible,” said Thornton. “We are limiting the number of folks who can be together in social groups, particularly for the first month.” For the first two weeks it is important for students to follow rules and stay in their own residence halls until further notice. “At the end of the first two weeks we will reevaluate to see if we feel that it is safe to open up so you can visit between residence halls,” said Thornton.
Talk of reopening residence halls for the spring semester has begun, however before a task force is put in place, it’s important to see how the fall semester starts. As for now, students at St. John Fisher College have been doing a good job following directions to keep the campus community safe. “There is not another student body that I would rather be working with right now,” Thornton said. “The student body here is a kind, caring and responsible group of students, and I really trust that we can do it, but it is going to take everyone.”