‘We are going to try and work on the basis of trust with our students’: Senior Medical Adviser speaks on student’s return to campus, new changes to rules

‘We are going to try and work on the basis of trust with our students’: Senior Medical Adviser speaks on student’s return to campus, new changes to rules

Luca Triant, Newscast: Executive Producer

As the spring semester begins on Monday and the majority of students return to campus this weekend, Quinnipiac University has been preparing for the potential impact the pandemic might bring to the school with continuing restrictions and new changes.

One of these major changes made by the school is a new process for students who enter isolation on campus. According to Dr. David Hill, the senior medical adviser at Quinnipiac and professor of medical sciences, the school is following current CDC guidance on isolation: if students on campus are placed in isolation, they will only have to remain for five full days.

Students will then be required to test on the fifth day of their isolation, after which they will be able to return to classes in-person on the sixth day if they test negative. However, Hill recommends students return home for isolation if they can, as spaces are limited.

“For those students who can’t safely return home… we will have isolation spaces on campus,” Hill said. “They are limited… I think we have somewhere around 100 isolation spaces.”

Hill has been leading the university’s efforts in preparing the university for returning students amidst growing cases of Omicron in Connecticut and the nation. Students have already had to test before returning to campus, a move Hill describes as a precaution to getting through the first few weeks safely.

“I think these first two weeks of students returning are going to perhaps be the most challenging,” Hill said. “We want students who test positive to stay home and that’s why we gave a narrow window of testing, of 24 hours, for the rapid test.”

Hill said that the university made the window of testing tighter this semester. Alongside the shorter gap of time for the rapid tests, students who take PCR tests must have them administered 72 hours before they return to campus. The change, Hill hopes, will help stem the tide if some cases may still break through.

“It’s certainly possible, likely, that we’re going to have students who are returning to campus who will turn positive in the next few days,” Hill said. “We need to be ready for that, we don’t want to overwhelm our system.”

While the spring semester is looking to remain similar to the fall, restrictions are still to continue, with a few changes that have been made over the winter break by Quinnipiac besides new isolation rules. Students are required to obtain a COVID-19 booster shot by Tuesday, Feb. 15 if they wish to remain on campus. A booster clinic will appear on campus between Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 for students who have not gotten their vaccine booster yet.

Amid the continuing restrictions and the new changes, Hill wishes to bring a different look to the response to the pandemic as it shows no sign of going away and may stick around for a long time to come.

“We are going to try and work on the basis of trust with our students,” Hill said. “We want to develop a partnership and maybe that’s part of how we are moving to the new phase of COVID, realizing that COVID is going to be endemic at some point… we want to work with students to make life as straightforward with faculty and staff and with students as possible.”

Hill also believes that life on campus should still be able to continue similarly to last semester despite the variant.

“I’m going to be optimistic that we can do things as we did last semester,” Hill said. “We’re going to have to get over this first couple of weeks… once we’re there unless we have a huge surge… I don’t see any reason we can’t continue to pursue our social, athletic and academic activities as we have.”

Still, Hill warns that despite reports of milder symptoms of the Omicron variant, there is still danger involved to be concerned about when dealing with it.

“Everything that consistently comes up is that Omicron is mild and that we don’t need to worry about it,” Hill said. “Omicron isn’t mild for some people. If we just look at the numbers of hospitalizations and increased deaths nationally and within Connecticut, it’s taken its toll.”

Over the last seven days in Connecticut since Sunday, there have been over 34,000 COVID-19 cases, while 215 people have died of the virus.