Happy first issue! We at the Tripod are, once again, cautiously optimistic about this in-person semester. Walking around campus has felt shockingly normal to us, with each gathering of over ten people reminiscent of Fall 2018 and Fall 2019, or the pre-Covid era. We are in a very different position as a school than we were a year ago, but even still, the return to normalcy is a ways away.
In looking at our peer institutions, it seems as if the College is handling things a degree above others. As of Sept. 10, Connecticut College has shifted completely online after more than 50 students tested positive for COVID-19. Vaccinations at Conn are also required unless an individual has a medical or religious exemption, as is the case at Trinity. While this is certainly a testament to how well Trinity and Trinity students have been handling things, it is also a reminder that we must continue to adhere to relevant public health as well as mandated College practices to ensure that we do not meet the same fate as Conn.
Regardless of how separated we may feel that we, as a College community, are from the real world as we fall back into the daily doings of Trinity life, we cannot forget that we still have a responsibility to the greater Hartford community. We are not confined to this campus anymore, and once one ventures past Summit Street, there are still many people out there who are unvaccinated and in danger of contracting COVID-19. The pandemic is not over, although many, perhaps even all of us, wish this were the case. Even within our own community there are students and faculty members who are exempted from the vaccine mandate. If you intentionally refuse to comply with the College policies or intentionally act in a manner completely contrary to public health regulations, you are only doing yourself and others a disservice. No point is proven in refusing to protect the health of others or even your own; Whether you intend to or not, you are projecting the impression that you do not care about the consequences of your actions.
Weekly surveillance testing began when members of the Junior and Senior class moved in on Sept. 6, and as so detailed on page 4, has resulted in an alarmingly low number of active cases on our campus. According to the FAQ’s of the COVID-19 Information section on the College’s website, approximately 10 to 15 percent of the vaccinated student population will be tested each week, based on the last digit of their Trinity ID number and the first letter of their last name in order to “test a cross section of students.” Students are notified a week prior to their scheduled surveillance test, and are told that if they do not receive a call from the Health Center, then their results are “normal and healthy.” Quarantine guidelines if a student is infected with COVID-19 have also been relaxed this year. According to the Trinity website and the information we were sent prior to our arrival to campus, fully vaccinated students who test positive for the virus may not even remain in quarantine. These students are required to wear a mask for 10 days (which we are already required to do) and obtain additional medical evaluation in the Health Center in order to determine the course of action and if additonal quarantine or isolation will be required. For unvaccinated students that have an approved medical exemption, they are required to quarantine for 10 days regardless if they test positive for the virus Additionally, students who are exposed to someone who contracted the virus, but are vaccinated, do not need to quarantine if they are asymptomatic and have no immunocompromising medical issues. They will, however, be required to wear a mask for two weeks (which, again, is already required of us) and will have to test for the virus five days after exposure. The case is, of course, different for unvaccinated individuals who are exposed, and thus they will be required to quarantine. The website indicated that there is still on-campus quarantine housing, although Doonesbury is no longer that designated housing as it was last year. Even though it may feel like we no longer have to pay attention to these guidelines and protocols, since the majority of the student body is vaccinated, it would be irresponsible to remain blissfully unaware of those that this virus is still affecting on a daily basis.
This system of continued, yet irregular testing, and isolation protocal, seems to keep students aware that we are not completely in the clear, and that it is, in fact, still possible to contract the virus regardless of one’s vaccination status. It can be easy for college students to fall into the cycle of believing we are invincible, but this is not the time nor the place to adopt that mindset, especially when we have come so far. Connecticut College serves as an example of how quickly we can regress to a point that is reminiscent of this time last year, and the nationwide case numbers also remind us of that fact. It is a sobering note to start the semester on, but it is crucial for us to keep our heads out of the clouds and feet on the ground when human lives are at stake and we have a duty to a community that is larger than just ourselves.
-KJN & DJN