Faith Monahan ’24
Tia Wurzrainer ’24
Last Tuesday, Sept. 14, Chief of Staff and Vice President for External Affairs Jason Rojas announced in an email to the Trinity community that there were reports of inconsistencies in mask wearing across campus, as well as a change in isolation policy, including further details about isolation housing. Reports of a lack of mask wearing compliance in the fitness center, the Raether Library, and in Mather Hall were received by Trinity’s COVID steering community from “some faculty, staff, and students,” Rojas clarified to the Tripod. The change in isolation policy will now require all students who test positive for COVID-19 to be placed in isolation for 10 days.
The Tripod reached out to students on their thoughts regarding the mask policy on campus more generally. One student, who would like to remain anonymous, remarked, “It makes no sense to have to wear your mask in Mather while getting food only to no longer be required to wear it while eating. COVID doesn’t take lunch breaks, so either eating in Mather isn’t safe or wearing a mask in line is pointless.” A member from the class of 2024 commented, “I think that it’s important that we wear masks inside and should continue to do so especially as the virus continues to be transmitted rapidly.”
Generally, students seem to understand the importance of mask-wearing as a public health policy, however the reports of non-compliance continue. Trinity College’s mask-wearing policy has remained mostly the same compared to last year. However, the re-opening of Mather dining hall to full-capacity sit-down meals, where students can eat with their peers unmasked, is the most significant deviation from last year’s mask policy.
Following Rojas’s email, a number of students have reported to the Tripod that there have been individuals moving through the Raether Library to enforce mask compliance. This was confirmed by Rojas in an email to the Tripod in which he explained that the College “ha[s] secured additional capacity to engage with members of our community and remind them of our mask-wearing policy which is also a mandate by the City of Hartford.” When asked how the College would be measuring the efficacy of these policy changes aimed at increasing mask compliance, Rojas responded that given the strong mask compliance in the classroom environment, the College “will continue to focus on settings where there is less direct supervision.”
Originally, fully vaccinated students who tested positive on campus would be required to wear masks for ten days, though already a requirement, as well as “receive an additional medical evaluation” from the Health Center to determine whether quarantine or isolation is necessary. Following an inquiry into this policy, Trinity’s healthcare advisors recommended an adjustment in protocol. Now, “all vaccinated students who test positive via our testing program will receive a medical evaluation and will be placed in isolation for 10 days.” Regardless of vaccination status or medical status, any student who tests positive for COVID-19 will be quarantined. In response to this change in policy, a member of the class of 2024 stated, “This updated Testing, Isolation, and Quarantine policy makes a lot more sense. I did not agree with the one from before.”
The College reasoned that because all students were required to demonstrate a negative PCR test within 72 hours of move-in, as well as being symptom-free for 90 days prior to move-in, any new positive test results must be treated as “a valid positive indicating illness and requiring isolation.”
The College also provided additional information on this semester’s isolation housing, explaining that students in off-campus isolation housing “will receive meal delivery and support” similar to last year’s practice. Unlike last year, Trinity will no longer use residence halls like Doonesbury as isolation facilities. Instead, Rojas clarified, several college-owned facilities near campus will be used for isolation housing, in addition to some facilities near campus that the College is renting. In addition, Rojas indicated that Trinity has looked into the possibility of using local hotels for extra isolation housing should a substantial rise in cases occur – a practice other NESCAC schools have resorted to as of late.
Bates College and Williams College both have a cumulative total of eight cases. Bates only has one active case, however, Williams has three active, indicating potential for further spread.
Finally, Hamilton College has done extremely well in limiting COVID with only four total cases over the course of the semester so far. Further, they report zero active cases as of Sept. 20, indicating continued success.
It is important, though, to note some limitations of these data. First, each school has its own unique testing program which could affect the number of positive results detected. In addition, schools have all implemented different public health precautions of varying strictness; the differing degrees of severity of these policies could have an effect on COVID transmission as well. A more thorough and systematic approach is needed to warrant stronger conclusions.