Jack P. Carroll ’24
Vice President for Student Success and Enrollment Management Joe DiChristina and Chief of Staff to the President Jason Rojas outlined the College’s reopening plans for the spring semester in an email addressed to students and families on Friday, Jan. 15. The plans were developed by Trinity’s “COVID-19 steering committee,” of which DiChristina and Rojas serve as co-chairs.
Trinity intends to allow the same number of students–1,700–to live on-campus in “individual bedrooms with a variety of campus housing types” and expects a further 200 to reside in “nearby off-campus housing” and several others to commute. Trinity had previously had approximately 2,050 out of an enrollment of 2,200 attend some in-person courses in the fall, according to reports from the College.
According to the email, move-in for the spring semester will occur Thursday, Feb. 18, through Monday, Feb. 22. Upon their arrival, students will be expected to have completed a 10-day at-home quarantine and have produced a negative PCR test within seven days of their return to campus. Further, students are required to complete the pre-arrival checklist, report to the Ferris Center for COVID-19 testing, and self-quarantine (with exceptions for meal pick-ups and COVID-19 testing) until they have produced three negative tests through the campus testing center.
Guidance from the State of Connecticut indicates that students should be in quarantine for fourteen days, a position adopted by Wesleyan. It was not immediately clear if Trinity’s policy would permit a full fourteen day isolation period, given that students arrive on Feb. 22 and classes resume Mar. 1.
Trinity’s quarantine is significantly shorter than some other institutions in Connecticut: Yale University, similarly situated in an urban setting, announced this week that students would have a month-long arrival quarantine. The Yale Daily News reported that the decision came from guidance from “the state of Connecticut and at a time when viral cases are significantly higher than they were in the fall, both nationally and locally, and as the significantly more contagious variant has been detected in Connecticut.” Dean of Yale College Marvin Chung added that “[T]he extra time is needed to establish low levels of transmission within the student community,” according to the News.
In the email, it was indicated that the College’s “experience from the fall” was used to “guide” its plans for the spring semester, though it was not immediately clear what, if any changes, the College had made to its operations.
Rojas and DiChristina indicated that “faculty, staff, and students generally were diligent in following rules for physical distancing, mask-wearing, and hand-sanitizing.” While acknowledging that the fall “wasn’t perfect, and we certainly saw more COVID-19 cases than many of our small college peers,” the College contended that the “preventative measures we took and the management protocols we put in place for the fall worked and allowed us to complete the fall semester as planned.”
In November, the Tripod reported that the College finished the in-person semester with a total of 124 cases, a figure which remained the “highest in the NESCAC.” Since then, the cumulative total of COVID-19 cases (since Aug. 17, 2020) has increased to 153 at the time this article was written, indicating that the approximately 100 students and some staff who continued to remain on-campus during the winter term saw some cases of the virus among their ranks.
The College community saw its highest surge in Covid-19 cases in October when the College’s case count rose to 56. After DiChristina initially suggested that “nearly all of the new cases” were from “students who were in quarantine,” the Tripod learned that several of the infected students had visited Parkville Market, an off-campus food hall in the Parkville region of Harford. Marketing, Sales, and Events manager Kelly Even and Director of Operations Chelsea Mouta subsequently informed the Tripod that the market “had not been contact traced by the College.”
During the same month, it was reported that Trinity placed infected students in the same dormitories as non-infected students. Parents and Residents of Stowe and Clemens–which served as the dormitories where the infected students were mixed with non-infected students–were not notified of the potential use of these spaces as isolation facilities when registering for housing. Also, the Tripod independently confirmed that Residential Life officials initially denied to student Residential Advisors (RA’s) that infected students had been relocated to Stowes and Clemens in telephone calls until “the relocation had become widely reported.”
Keith Grant, an infectious disease specialist and one of the team at Hartford HealthCare supporting Trinity, indicated in October that the relocation was “probably not Plan A and more like Plan B or C for Trinity” and told the Tripod that controlling viral spread was difficult under the College’s relocation scheme.
The College indicated Friday that they would continue to consult with Hartford HealthCare and their other regional partners on their COVID-19 response and on the vaccination policies when they become available. Rojas and DiChristina indicated that they “don’t yet know when vaccines will be available to members of our community, or how vaccinations and the availability and reliability of rapid testing might have an impact on event planning.” The College’s visitor policy for the spring was also not outlined.
The College provided no details in the email Friday about changes to isolation practices or the expansion of isolation facilities, though Rojas and DiChristina indicated that the College “will share fuller details and roll out enhanced communications tools by early February.” The College also made no indication of regulating off-campus travel, which was ubiquitous among students during the fall term despite College admonitions against it.
In the fall, Trinity removed 15 students from the Hartford campus for the remainder of the semester “as a result of significant Covid-19 conduct violations.” The College confirmed that “14 students who live in campus housing visited a local bar” in October. In another incident, one student violated the “COVID-19 guest policy” and received punishment. Both of these incidents occurred while the College functioned at an “orange” alert level after the surge in cases that occurred over the course of October.
The Tripod reached out to Rojas, who was not immediately available, for comment following the publication of this article. The Tripod will update if comment is received.