STORRS, Conn. (WTNH) — College campuses across the country had to shut down in-person learning and switch exclusively to online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. At the University of Connecticut, they have been able to keep their numbers low and in-person learning moving forward thanks to their strict health safety policies.
UConn began telling parents and students this summer the campus is going to look different if they’re going to stay open all year.
The changes on campus are obvious, and there are a lot of them when you walk to the student center. It’s one-way traffic only, with dividers, hand sanitizing stations, six-foot distancing guidelines on the floor, and that’s just the beginning.
UConn Dean of Students Eleanor Daugherty told News 8, “Mask wearing and physical distancing keeps us open. Or it closes us it is really that simple.”
Since students began to move back to campus Aug. 14, the school has had more than 163 positive cases on-campus with 129 students having already recovered. 5,000 total students live on campus, so that positivity rate is low when you look at colleges nationwide.
Dean Daugherty says, “It has been planning for a new normal not for a crisis.”
She says their plan had to be nimble. They had to keep up with the virus. So when they saw a spike at the Garrigus residence hall, they put them into medical quarantine. Wednesday that quarantine was lifted.
“It’s happening because of close contact in small settings,” the dean explained. “And what seems like an innocent gathering in a suite with a couple of friends hanging out, those are the source of spread. And so as those numbers went up we had to clamp down.”
The university laid the groundwork out early on and told students what to expect and the students understand and get it because they don’t want the school shut down either.
Sarah Adlassni, a freshman, told News 8, “When they put the plan out initially I felt really really safe and I thought that if everybody abided by the rules that this would be a really great semester, so I feel safe. I feel comfortable and I’m really happy to be here.”
And for those students who tested positive or showed symptoms, they were isolated to a dorm where they were given medical treatment.
“They have meal delivery, they do virtual learning, and they are really going to stay put until they are recovered, which is generally about 10 days,” Dean Daugherty said.
The dean says looking at the current plan and the success they’ve had means for now they will be able to stay open for the entire school year.
“We are isolating the sick students. They are getting the care they need and they are returning to the community healthy, and that’s giving me an indication that we may be able to keep going,” she said.
And UConn did de-densify early on, cutting dorm capacity in half and asking out-of-state students who are online-only, to stay off-campus.