It is clear that we – as a nation, as a state, and as a University community – have entered a new phase in the fight with COVID-19.
On the one hand, numerous public health statistics are improving. Hospitalizations dropped to levels not seen since just before Thanksgiving. The rate of transmission, recently around 1.45, has dropped to .81. Nationally, daily new cases remain below 100,000 – significantly lower than the 300,000 reported on January 2. Over 1.1 million vaccinations have been administered in the state. This is all good news.
And yet, ominous signs remain present.
Confirmed deaths remain elevated. The so called “U.K. variant” of the virus (and a more virulent strain) has arrived in the state, with two cases reported in Essex County. The pace of vaccinations is nowhere near where it needs to be to inoculate 4.7 million New Jersey residents by May, as the state hoped to do. Governor Murphy has entered quarantine out of an abundance of caution due to a potential exposure.
Higher education throughout the nation has been hard hit. There are reports of “dorm lockdowns” at some schools. Others have tightened social distancing requirements, or shifted to remote learning, or restricted off-campus travel. A couple have reportedly banned outdoor exercising.
At Seton Hall, we have seen an increase in Spring 2021 semester cases in comparison to the fall semester. Although these levels are not unexpected, we are watching the case counts very closely. We remain in regular contact with local health officials, sharing our testing information and partnering with them to conduct contact tracing.
While we do not know what circumstances the virus will throw at us next, we remain prepared. Our Restart Plan – created in consultation with numerous health experts and accepted by the State of New Jersey – provides the guidance and flexibility for us to adapt to the rapidly changing situation.
We increased random surveillance testing this week. We are increasing the availability of isolation and quarantine space for resident students who test positive or are contacts. We continue to promote the Seton Hall Pledge.
We are prepared to take additional mitigation steps if circumstances dictate. This could include things like a quarantine for parts of or entire residence halls, pausing in-person social programs or academic instruction, or making a campus-wide stay at home declaration. We have no desire to take any of these measures, but these, and others, are available as options if needed to protect your health and safety.
Better days are ahead. But they are not here yet. Please continue to do your part. Do not let your guard down. Do not fall victim to pandemic fatigue. Follow the Seton Hall Pledge.
Please know that all we say and do is with your safety – and that of our entire University community – foremost in mind. We persevered through the challenges of 2020. We continue to move, Hazard Zet Forward, through 2021. We are in this together.
We conclude this week’s update with a story of inspiration and determination. Sister André of Toulon, France recently defeated the coronavirus, showing few symptoms during her illness. While the report of this woman of faith’s recovery may not appear newsworthy, Sister André is Europe’s oldest known person, turning 117 last Thursday.
Be well and be safe, Pirates.
Click here to learn when you will be eligible for the vaccine. Please carefully check the guidelines; you may be eligible earlier than you realize.
In addition to the state’s vaccination web site, you can find valuable vaccination information through each of the state’s county web sites. Note that the state site is a pre-registration, designed to help you know when you are eligible. It does not register you to receive the vaccination.
Essex County has received high marks for its vaccination process. You can learn more at the Essex County COVID site.
Keeping Ourselves and Each Other Healthy
New Jersey strongly discourages all non-essential interstate travel at this time.
Remember to use #CampusClear every day, whether coming to campus or not.
We have created a COVID-19 Calculator as a useful tool to help determine time in quarantine or isolation and a 90-day calculator for those who previously tested positive and want to determine when they may be susceptible to reinfection.
Students: remember that Health Services offers a wide array of testing and other health and safety services. They are here to help you. In addition to the existing surveillance testing, students may request to be tested as frequently as once per week.
The University’s Health Services and Human Resources work closely with local and state health officials on contact tracing. This provides an added layer of notification as both the University and state contact tracers reach out to impacted individuals. University contact tracers received training through Johns Hopkins. To learn more, the CDC provides guidance about contact tracing and who is considered a “close contact.” The University has not experienced any cases of in-classroom transmission.
Your health and safety remain paramount in Seton Hall’s planning and actions. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please contact the HICT here.
Shawna Cooper-Gibson, Ed.D.
Vice President of Student Services
Matthew Borowick ’89/MBA ’94
Vice President of University Relations
Co-chairs, Health Intervention and Communication Team