On March 1 Governor Tom Wolf revised the mitigation order on gatherings and lifted outof-state travel restrictions for the state of Pennsylvania. Under these new provisions, one no longer needs a negative COVID test to enter the state, or to fulfill a ten-day quarantine upon entering PA.
“Pennsylvania is taking a measured approach to revising or lifting mitigation orders,” said Governor Wolf. “The reason we are seeing cases drop can be attributed, in part, to people following the mitigation efforts we have in place. Mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene are making a difference and need to continue even as we see more and more people fully vaccinated. We need to balance protecting public health with leading the state to a robust economic recovery. We are lifting mitigation efforts only when we believe it is safe to do so.”
Executive Director of Wellness for Campus and Director of the Cohen Health Center, Judy Smith, Ph.D., offered some insight into how this change could potentially affect students.
“I think that students from nearby states will find it alleviates some pressure if they decide to go home to visit for a weekend as they will not be faced with having to obtain test results in a certain period of time or quarantine,” said Smith. “On the other hand, we have seen situations where roommates express significant concerns when they realize a roommate is going out of state and then coming straight back into the shared living environment. These students may find it frustrating that the state no longer requires their roommate to test or quarantine before moving back into the shared housing.” Even with these lifted precautions, Governor Wolf, along with the Center for Disease Control (CDC) cautioned against unnecessary travel.
According to the CDC web page on travel during COVID-19, one should consider factors such as if they live with someone who is at an increased risk of complications due to COVID-19, if hospitals are operating at or above capacity and the methods of transportation one plans to utilize, among other things, before considering travel. Smith echoed this sentiment.
“The CDC continues to emphasize not traveling if at all possible. We need to be careful that students do not become confused and think that since PA got out of the business of trying to set regulations restricting travel that this means travel is now considered safe,” said Smith. “A key statement in the current CDC guidance to the public remains: ‘Travel increases your chance of spreading and getting COVID-19. CDC recommends that you do not travel at this time. Delay travel and stay home to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.’”
As these mitigation strategies were set forth by the Pennsylvania state government, Smith discussed how Mercyhurst will be continuing its COVID precautions.
“We have historically done our best to support compliance with PA travel restrictions when they were in place. However, even before they were, our mitigation strategies emphasized healthy habits such as social distancing, cleaning/disinfecting, and masking, among others,” said Smith. “We will continue to follow the above mitigation strategies and to encourage students to not travel outside of Erie during the semester if it can be avoided.”
For those who may have to travel for emergency circumstances, athletics, or other necessities, this change may be a welcome relief.
Smith cautions that decreasing the flow of people in and out of the campus can help to avoid exposure to other communities.
“We know how important it is for students and families to make sure that conditions on campus remain safe and that the semester goes well. And we count on the support of the overall campus community to help us with this,” Smith said.