Coronavirus continues to ravage the United States forcing some businesses to limit their capacity to half and enforce social distancing. Colleges, including Utica College, continue to be affected as well.
UC’s goal is to operate on-ground until late-November through social distancing, mask wearing and common-sense precautions. While these are the best precautions to take, according to the Center for Disease Control, some students are concerned about unavoidable risks on campus especially after more positive cases have emerged from pooled testing.
The concern was addressed by President Laura Casamento in a Sept. 18 email to students. In the email, Casamento acknowledges the concern for the recent rise in positive cases, but also notes that the college is testing each week at higher rates than other schools.
“I share this not to discredit the protocols of other institutions, but rather to articulate a simple fact: we are going to have positive cases,” Casamento said. “It’s the predictable result of aggressive testing. Put another way, we test to identify cases, not to have zero cases.”
Yet, some students feel discomfort in the structure of campus life so far, specifically in terms of following social distancing guidelines.
“I feel like some of the classrooms are not six feet apart,” senior Elizabeth Darling said. “In Hubbard Hall, it goes desk than an empty desk and then another desk. I’m not sure if that’s six feet apart so I’m not sure if that’s safe.”
Senior Koby Wallman said the college is doing everything it can to provide a safe environment, but he has concerns about traveling to and from campus to get downtown to the Clark City Center.
“I take the bus and they pack what seems like 40 kids on the bus and I’m sitting knee to knee with someone else,” Wallman said. “But I don’t think that’s something that can be improved on. We have to go to class.”
While Darling had concerns about the classrooms not being socially distanced enough, other students, including senior Amari Abraham, said some precautions taken to fight the virus might be too much.
“I think they’ve done a good job of keeping us safe but I do think that the borders in the cafe were a little much,” Abraham said. “I’m not sure of the material but I think it’s a wooden board in the middle of the table and with only six people allowed to sit at a table, it’s a little extra.”
Abraham said he is not concerned about the number of cases of COVID-19 starting to rise.
“I believe there are around twelve cases on campus, twelve cases compared to thousands of people on campus,” Abraham said. “What did they expect? I think most of the cases have been people who leave and live off-campus. I don’t see worry about it yet.”
According to the college’s COVID-19 dashboard, more than 14,500 students have cumulatively been tested with only 13 students and three employees returning positive. Currently, there are only three positive cases at Utica College which puts the school’s rate at 0.11%.
The college recently emailed a student survey, giving students an anonymous platform to express concerns about COVID and how it’s been handled at the college so far. As of this time, no results of this survey have been shared with the public.
This article has been edited from its original form on Oct. 1 at 11:42 p.m.