Kip Lynch ’22
Trinity confirmed its first positive case of COVID-19 since students began to return to campus for the fall semester Saturday evening. In an email to community members, Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina confirmed that a student had tested positive through “our campus testing program.” DiChristina did not indicate when the student arrived but noted that the student is “feeling well and has been moved to isolation following our protocols.”
Trinity remains at its “green” alert level as of Saturday evening. Impacted students have been contacted by the College as part of its contact tracing program. It was not immediately clear how many individuals the student had come into contact with, though DiChristina described the interaction as “with a very limited number of people on campus since arriving.”
Trinity also released its COVID-19 dashboard Saturday afternoon, which reflects a total of 1,262 students tested since Aug. 17. Of those 1,262, 2 tested positive, though one positive case occurred before a student returned to campus. 17 of those tested were invalid. No employees had tested positive as of Saturday afternoon, though 8 results were invalid. It was not entirely clear what the status of “invalid tests” were: the College indicates that they refer to tests “that could not be processed for a variety of reasons.”
DiChristina added that the College will not necessarily provide notification of future positive cases. It was not immediately clear if the College would update students if there were an outbreak in a specific location and, further, what criteria would constitute an outbreak at Trinity.
Trinity had tightened restrictions and return-to-campus plans in recent days. In an email to the community earlier this week, Chief of Staff and Associate Vice President for External Relations Jason Rojas notified the Trinity community of several updates made to the Returning to Trinity website, which include updates to Trinity’s travel and guest policies as well as a framework of operating status levels based on factors related to COVID-19.
It was previously unclear whether Trinity’s COVID-19 travel policies would apply to personal travel. The policy has been updated to include a section on personal travel which reads in part: “This policy does [not] apply to personal travel [sic].” However, the college asks community members to carefully consider the potential impact of personal travel and community health. “Personal travel that presents increased risk at this time is strongly discouraged. Nevertheless, members of our community may find it necessary to undertake such travel, and it is not prohibited by Trinity.”
The College’s visitor policy outlines Trinity’s intention to impose “significant restrictions on visitors to Trinity’s campus through at least December 1, 2020.” Mandatory guidelines for guests include making an appointment, symptom screenings, wearing masks, and social distancing. The policy further states that “families are discouraged from visiting their student through December 1, 2020 to support our goal of maintaining the health and safety of our campus community. Students and families should notify the Office of Student Life of plans to visit campus. Families are not allowed in residence halls except in the case of a medical emergency or another approved visit.”
Trinity College has developed a set of four campus alert levels: green (least restrictive), yellow, orange, and red (most restrictive). Under all alert levels, physical distancing and face coverings are required. Both personal and college travel is gradually restricted from essential or limited travel only under a green alert level to entirely prohibited under a red alert level. Even under a red alert level, the college does not intend to send students home, though it does plan on canceling all in-person and hybrid classes. Furthermore, under a red alert level, lab research employees and students, faculty, student workers, and visitors will have to remain off campus while contractors will be allowed to remain on campus with prior approval. In addition, personal travel would be “prohibited” under a red alert level, however, it remains unclear whether the College has the legal authority to do so. The Tripod has reached out to Rojas for comment on these changes but has not heard back as of Saturday, Aug. 29.
The Tripod also received data on the projected number of students who plan to return, together with the academic outlook for the fall semester. Of the 2,261 matriculated undergraduate students who are eligible to enroll, 2,184 (96.6%) students are registered for courses in the fall and/or J-Term. There will be 193 in-person classes, 81 hybrid classes, and 224 remote classes. When asked to comment on the number faculty teaching at least one course in-person this semester, Rojas declined to provide an exact figure, stating that “This number may vary. For example, we have some adjunct instructors who may be teaching one course remotely but another course on-campus. The same would apply for our full-or part-time professors.”
The Tripod has independently reviewed extant course offerings and their status as in-person or online: of those faculty presently registered to teach, the Tripod projects that between 30%-35% of faculty will be teaching in-person classes during the fall semester, while the remainder of course offerings will be entirely online.