Matthew Breault, Assistant Sports Editor
Many colleges across the country are struggling with COVID-19 surges and some are shifting in-person learning to all virtual classes.
SUNY Oneonta, as a recent and more local example, is one of the local colleges that was negatively affected by large case numbers and decided to close down campus just two weeks after classes began.
So far Utica College has had better luck with case numbers heading into the fourth week of the fall semester and has one of the lowest number of COVID-19 cases in Central New York. Students and staff hope it continues to stay that way.
First year residential student Bailey Lagoe said the mandatory COVID-19 pool testing is helping contribute to UC’s success.
“I believe that UC is being successful in keeping students and staff safe due to the fact that when we first moved in, we were all tested,” Lagoe said. “The pooling testing every week has caught many cases early so they didn’t have time to spread around the campus.”
Utica College has mandatory COVID-19 pooled testing on Monday through Wednesday between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. and Thursday between 7 a.m. and 3 p.m. Each student arrives at the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium, and to avoid congestion, each type of student, either residential or commuter and specific residence hall, all have a predetermined time slot.
According to Sophomore Talia Colangelo, the college is doing more than pooled testing to help keep students safe and to reach the goal of making it to the end of the in-person semester in November.
“UC is testing every student once a week, quarantining positive cases, making everyone use the Daily Health Screening and cleaning desks before and after use,” Colangelo said. “The college is also taking initiative and removing the students that aren’t following the mask or social distancing guidelines.”
Utica College has enforced its new Zero-Tolerance Policy since the start of the semester. Around 20 students have been removed from campus within the first month due to either COVID mask violations, guest violations or some variation of the two.
Alumni Hall Resident Assistant Jayme Connolly said the rules put in place have helped in preventing a spread of the virus.
“Within the residence halls, students can no longer bounce between different buildings like they used to,” Connolly said. “UC is permitting students to see their friends in the same building which is a great way to keep a spread under control.”
Many said strict policies have kept the students and staff feeling safe during these difficult circumstances.
“I honestly trust what is going on because everything seems to be working so well,” Colangelo said. “As long as everyone at UC does what they’re supposed to, I don’t see any issue.”
Many students don’t seem to be afraid of the handful of Covid cases currently on campus because of how well the college is handling everything.
“As an RA, I personally do not see any fear in the students about the possibility of a spike in cases,” Connolly said. “We passed the first few weeks with flying colors so as long as students, faculty and staff are following the protocols in place, we should have a safe semester.”
Although students may not be afraid of a spike in cases, that doesn’t mean there isn’t a possibility it could happen.
“I think I’d be more upset than afraid because we would have to be sent home to do online classes,” Lagoe said.
Because the current numbers are low, students will be able to continue with in-person classes as long as everyone follows the protocols that have been put in place.
“UC has definitely taken this challenge head on and our president, dean and other faculty really want us to be here on campus,” Connolly said. “I keep hearing staff members say how lonely the campus is without students and that’s a reason why we need to follow the rules so we can enjoy the semester.”