Updated COVID precautions to include weekly sample testing of students, staff

Samantha Weber, Staff writer

For the spring semester, Mercyhurst University is using the COVID-19 Event Phase Model to monitor and direct campus behaviors to ensure the health and safety of those on camps.

On Feb. 2, Mercyhurst entered phase two of testing protocols: surveillance testing. Students received the news via an email from vice president for Student Life, Laura Zirkle, Ph.D., with the latest updates.

Zirkle leads the University’s Critical Incident Response Team since March of 2020, when COVID-19 began spreading rapidly. In the email, it stated that the last results from the on-campus testing had been received.

Students needed to have negative test results no earlier than three days before being allowed to move back into their residence halls. Then, approximately a week after moving in, students were required to take another test which was administered by a professional.

Faculty and staff also participated in pre-semester testing. In order try and stay ahead of a large outbreak, approximately 10 percent of our eligible campus population including students, faculty, and staff will be tested each week as an effort to monitor numbers.

If selected to be tested that week, students will receive an email on Monday telling them what day and time to go and get tested.

The results from the on-campus tests were a small number of positive cases, which allows the university to ease some of the heightened restrictions for campus organizations and other groups.

In the first phase, all meetings were required to be virtual and there could not be any in-person gatherings. The only exception to this is classes, specifically those which started out as hybrids or fully in-person classes, with adequate space for social distancing.

The second phase allows for in-person meetings if it is necessary. Virtual meetings are still encouraged and participants must always remain six feet apart if meeting in-person.

There is a capacity limit in every room on campus, so attendees must remain below that capacity. All mandates must still be followed including mask wearing, social distancing and intensified cleaning measures.

However, even with restrictions in place, we are all glad to have moved into the next phase. Due to the lack of positive results from the on-campus tests, there was also an email sent out regarding students’ restrictions on campus. When they first arrived, students were not allowed to enter other people’s rooms.

On Feb. 3, students received an email stating that freshman can enter the other freshman residence halls and residential students can begin to have limited guests again, although guests are permitted from off-campus.

To ensure proper social distancing, both Baldwin and McAuley Hall are limited to three people per room including the residents, and Warde Hall is limited to four people per room including residents. Upperclassmen can have one guest each.

The protocols are crucial to ensuring there is not a large outbreak on campus, but if cases arise, we can hope that testing will help to mitigate the spread.