As new COVID-19 cases in New Hampshire are tracked to its colleges and universities, Saint Anselm College finds itself included in the upward trend. At the 11th meeting of the Student Senate at the start of the week, President Favazza expressed optimism that the college would be able to enter yellow phase. However, after an uptick in cases, the college will remain in orange phase for the time being.
“We’re up to 20 something [COVID-19 cases this week]. Which we’ve never had, even in the fall semester, we’re gonna stay in orange for now,” said Favazza. “We just got to see some trending in the right direction. We’re not looking for zero positives. We’re looking for small numbers to take some pressure off of our isolation and quarantine space.”
In reaction to an extreme uptick of cases on their campuses, the University of New Hampshire, Franklin Pierce University, along with others, have gone fully remote in an effort to keep their communities safe.
On the college’s COVID-19 dashboard, Favazza noted phase red was there for a reason. “If it keeps going up, [phase red] is absolutely on the table,” said Favazza. “I’m hoping that we don’t get there.”
What’s changed on campus?
After listening to student concerns and an unprecedented fall semester, Saint Anselm College implemented new policies and protocols to try to better address COVID-19. With these changes comes the phase reopening system, increased testing capacity, and efforts for more transparency between the administration and the student body.
What has not changed is the college’s need for a “bubble.” The addition of two testing machines has significantly increased the college’s testing capacity. “For move-in testing, we did 400 a day, which is a lot. And then when we repeated to secure the bubble, we did it again,” says Maura Marshall, director of Health Services.
With the increase in testing capacity, the college can more often test students that are higher-risk than others, such as commuters and athletes. With regards to other students that live on campus and do not have to leave for other commitments such as internships or medical appointments, they are tested alphabetically.
“We have certain students that are frequently traveling off-campus, so they go once a week, and then the other ones, we fill in through the alphabet.”
“That’s where people are getting [COVID-19], they’re getting it from off-campus” noted Marshall. “They’re leaving campus frequently, so we want to keep testing them on a regular basis.
In an email to discourage students from leaving campus, Director of Department of Safety and Security, Rob Browne, it was announced that a third-party security firm would be staffed at entry points to campus, during Thursday, Friday, and Saturday evenings.
As draconian as the effort sounded, the gates are meant to be a reminder to not leave campus, rather than a real, physical, security checkpoint. “Even though it may feel like it, we are not a prison,” Favazza said, laughing. “We’re not gonna put fences up, spotlights, guard dogs and everything else.”
Favazza stressed that the risk of leaving campus is not only the possibility of outbreaks on campus, but also spreading COVID-19 to the surrounding area that is not a part of the Saint Anselm community. The rise of COVID-19 cases in NH colleges serves as a reminder that students also have a responsibility to protect others and keep the local community safe as well, said Favazza.