By Danny Priest
On Tuesday, Sept. 29, Springfield College announced that Alumni Hall will be going into a quarantine after three positive cases of COVID-19 were contracted by residents in the hall.
News broke via an emergency Zoom call with residents of the hall, as well as an e-mail from President Mary-Beth Cooper that was sent to the campus community.
Students will be quarantined for 14 days through Tuesday, Oct. 13. If students chose to do so, they are allowed to go home for the duration of the quarantine.
From the e-mail, which was sent out at 11:16 p.m. on Tuesday:
Based on the recommendation of the Rapid Response Team and out of an abundance of caution, the President’s Leadership Team made the decision to quarantine all residents of Alumni Hall for 14 days. The residents of Alumni Hall were notified of this decision earlier this evening.
In accordance with our response plan, the following actions are being taken:
The Harvest Table Dining Group, the College’s dining services provider, will deliver meals to Alumni Hall, starting with breakfast tomorrow morning which will be available at 6:30 a.m.
Student residents of Alumni Hall will continue their classes remotely.
Our Facilities staff will begin increased sanitization in Alumni Hall.
Our mandatory surveillance testing program for students will continue, along with immediate testing of all Alumni Hall residents and at the end of the 14-day quarantine period.
Professors and coaches on campus will be notified to accommodate students/student-athletes who are unable to attend class and practice.
As more updates become available, this story will be updated to include the most recent and relevant information possible.
The decision was made out of an abundance of caution for the campus community.
Update as of September 30 at 9:46 p.m. with comments from President Cooper and Alumni Residents
Understandably, there was much immediate reaction from residents of the hall and many questions that were instantly raised.
The first and foremost theme from those involved in the decision was that it was made out of an abundance of caution for the campus community.
“We’ve got three active cases. Three active cases out of a 93 percent residential population is not bad. It is not ideal, but it is workable and manageable,” said President Mary-Beth Cooper.
“I’m going to walk up to Alumni Hall when they get dinner, I feel safe and I wouldn’t put them in an unsafe environment. If at any point I feel like it is unsafe for people to be here, we will make that decision,” she added.
Cooper made a point to emphasize that if there were one building on campus equipped to handle this type of decision, it’s Alumni Hall.
“Of all the residence halls, it is one of the halls that we’re able to work with because they’ve got a very large lobby area with tables already in play and lots of electricity for setting up dinner with hot tables or whatever we need to do there,” Cooper said. “They’ve got the beautiful terrace behind them, so there’s recreational space, it’s our building that has the most single rooms.”
The MacLean Terrace behind the building will be bordered off to serve as a space for residents of Alumni to relax outside and get some fresh air amidst the quarantine.
Tables will be brought over so students can enjoy meals and sit out on the terrace if they choose.
The bottom line remains that the decision is about controlling Covid now so it won’t get out of control later.
“We think that this is, in many ways, a preemptive strike that if we can contain this, and I know it’s not ideal for those students, I felt their frustration and fear and anger, and even some gratitude. Some people at the end of the call were saying thank you for looking out for us.
“We’re going to see that whole range of emotion for the next 14 days. If we can contain this and people continue to wear their masks, which I think people are doing, at least from what I’m observing as I walk around campus, we’ll have a chance to make it to Nov. 20,” Cooper said.
The situation remains fluid and changes are happening constantly, but as of now the school is trusting residents of Alumni to abide by quarantine rules.
There is nothing in place to monitor or force students to abide by the rules, but the school is putting its trust in the residents so the entire campus can remain here.
Some initial points that were made on the Zoom included that students should not enter rooms of other residents in Alumni Hall, and that they may go outside individually for walks/exercise, so long as they wear a mask and maintain social distancing guidelines.
Arrangements are being made to continue compensating students for work study. In the case of off-campus jobs, students are liable for getting in touch with their supervisors/bosses to update them on the situation.
Student reaction to the decision by the college was mixed.
“Obviously it sucks and (it’s) not what anyone wanted, but this is the world we live in now and the risk we took in coming back to school,” said senior resident Danny Getchell-Lacey.
“It’s probably not a huge reach to say that someone else will inevitably get it, but I sincerely hope they don’t and want to thank the school for taking the protective measures in order to keep the positive cases as low as possible,” he added.
Other students felt the same way as Getchell-Lacey regarding the decision.
“As inconvenient as it is, I understand why it’s necessary,” said junior Nora Fitzgerald. “A lot of the rules were hard to follow when they were explaining on the zoom, so I’m not sure exactly how they’re planning on holding everyone accountable. I’m just hoping that everyone does their part so we can stay here safely.”
On the other side of things, certain individuals felt blind-sided by the decision and disagreed with it.
“After the first couple weeks with only two positive cases I thought we would be in the clear. I understand the board directors wanting to be cautious but the two-week quarantine period, especially out of [the] blue, is very unfortunate and disheartening,” said senior Josh Alvarado.
“I’m fortunate enough to be able to go home during this time, because feeling locked in that room for two whole weeks can drive anyone insane,” he added.
Junior Samantha Birks felt angry with the decision. “It’s frustrating that a small number of cases in a residence hall that houses hundreds of students is (causing students who tested negative) being denied access to necessary campus resources including the library, the campus union, the wellness center, and quality food even after repetitive negative results in the majority,” she said.
Perhaps the most trying aspect for the students has been how quickly this entire plan unfolded and was implemented.
“I’m left confused why the plan for Alumni seems so disorganized. I assumed, which might’ve been wrong of me, that the school would’ve had a blanket plan set in place for what to do in dorms if this happened,” said junior Hannah Day.
“I’m trying to be understanding since no one has gone through this before, but am left feeling like the school has been putting on a false persona of being prepared,” she said.
Despite the concerns of students, Cooper wants to assure everyone that they will do their best to keep students in a comfortable position.
“We’re going to make sure they have food, we’re going to make sure they’ve got mentors, academic advising is all over this, the faculty are connected to make sure they get any makeup that they need and they don’t miss classes. It’s hard, I think it’s really hard,” Cooper said.
Her main priority remains student health.
“I read all the news media in the morning as well. A student died at Appalachian State University from Covid and that weighs really heavy on my mind. Whatever I can do to keep these students safe, that’s what we’re going to do. That quarantine is the next step,” Cooper said.
Should more information become available, this story will be updated.
Photo Courtesy of Springfield College Marketing & Communications