Brendan W. Clark ’21
Trinity’s alert status shifted to yellow, heralding a second outbreak as currently active, positive cases rose to 18 Friday evening according to an email from Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina. Despite the increase, “any in-person learning and examinations scheduled for the week of November 16-20 will proceed as planned.”
Earlier in the week, DiChristina had reported 12 currently active, positive cases: 8 among students and four among staff and affiliate staff. Trinity has reported 110 positive cases, including 12 prior, since the start of the semester in late August according to the College’s COVID dashboard.
In-person learning at the College concludes Nov. 20 and DiChristina urged students to “get tested for COVID-19 prior to going home” and “quarantine away from family members for 14 days.” It was not immediately clear how the College envisioned students quarantining at home with their family members.
Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas told the Tripod earlier this week that 100 students were in quarantine for possible exposure. DiChristina indicated Friday that “most of the new cases we have seen over the last two days were among students who were already in quarantine.”
The increase came as “students have now been tested for the virus at least once (most of them twice.” 11 students “are isolating on-campus, and seven are at home,” though “at home” remains an unclear definition and can refer to students isolating in off-campus residences. Rojas indicated that some of those students isolating on-campus had since travelled home.
DiChristina cancelled “all athletic and organized student activities,” though the “Hazelton fitness center will remain open for scheduled use of the cardio equipment.” The College’s library will also remain open, despite “reports that compliance with mask wearing has not been what is expected.” Rojas later walked back this claim of relaxed compliance, indicating that “students weren’t being compliant in masse, there were some individual instances in which we needed to remind students as they moved from being stationary for some time where they may have removed their mask and then forgot to put their mask back on” and described the message as a friendly reminder.
Outdoor gatherings were restricted to no “larger than six people” and indoor gatherings “should not be larger than allowed by the requirements for proper physical distancing.” The College, during previous outbreaks, had barred all in-person and common room gatherings. It remained unclear what prompted this change on in-person gatherings during the most recent outbreak. Rojas defended the decision to not regulate indoor gatherings during this uptick, noting that “students with appropriate guidance should have the opportunity to self-regulate in some limited circumstances.”
Trinity previously recorded a significant outbreak in October which overwhelmed College isolation facilities. During the October outbreak, stricter measures were taken including the cessation of in-person classes and the closure of the library and fitness center. The decision to not suspend classes, Rojas told the Tripod, was made because the College was “able to determine that the cases last week were connected.” Based on that Rojas noted, the College felt they could minimize disruption during the last week.
Trinity’s alert level had been raised to yellow once before, in mid-September, and was raised to orange during the duration of the October outbreak.
At UConn, administrators struck a different town as cases rose to 62, placing the entire campus under quarantine. UConn’s Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty admitted that the university does not “have the COVID spread under control,” according to The Hartford Courant. While UConn requires an exit test before students leave campus, Trinity does not. Rojas indicated that the College did not feel this was necessary, given that “very few institutions have been testing at the frequency that we have for the semester and student compliance with testing has been very high so there was no need to mandate something that is already in practice.”