Ding, ding! Salisbury University saw the return of students, faculty and staff Monday to begin spring semester courses, officially kicking off the campus’ second bout versus COVID-19.
While SU’s coronavirus positivity rate remained at or below 2% for nearly the entire fall semester — including its post-Thanksgiving return — both the county and state have continued to see spikes in positivity during the new year, now sitting at 10% and 7.4%, respectively, according to the university’s COVID-19 dashboard.
All SU students, faculty and staff are required to have a university-administered COVID-19 test within seven days of returning to campus after winter break, per a recent Stay Informed email. Individuals returning for the spring semester will need to be tested by Jan. 29.
Those tests will all be administered in the Great Hall of Holloway Hall and may be scheduled here.
The tests have identified 24 positive cases thus far this year, leaving the campus with less than a 1% COVID-19 positivity rate to begin the spring semester.
That low positivity rate is a stark contrast to the fall semester’s first week of classes, when the campus reflected a positivity rate of 6.1%, according to the dashboard.
All living units in Dogwood Village have now been converted strictly into quarantine and isolation areas for university members who test positive and are unable to return home, per Director of Student Health Services Vicki Lentz. All students affected by the policy have been contacted for reassignment to a new living facility.
The university’s rolling requirement for all campus community members to have a negative coronavirus test on-file every 30 days to maintain access to SU facilities also resumed Jan. 4, per the email. Access to campus buildings will begin being restricted Feb. 1 for students and employees still without an appropriate test result by that time.
SU plans to continue its previous combination of in-person, fully online and hybrid-formatted instruction during the spring semester, with greater opportunities for in-person courses expected.
“Our operations plan looks very much like it did last fall,” said SU President Charles Wight.
While SU was the only institution in the entire University System of Maryland to welcome students back after Thanksgiving, the university has already implemented an abbreviated spring break of two days to limit potential travel away from campus this semester over coronavirus concerns.
Wight has conveyed that every item on the university’s calendar remains subject to change for the foreseeable future as potential challenges posed by the virus continue to surface and threaten SU’s levels of operation.
“For now, we are being cautious about scheduling events because of the high prevalence of [COVID-19] infection in our region and in the nation,” Wight said. “But as the weather gets warmer, we may be able to schedule additional activities, especially outdoors.
“Our goal is to provide the best and safest college experience both in and out of the classroom.”
As for commencement for the class of 2021, Wight said university administrators have yet to begin discussions on how SU graduates may be able to celebrate receiving their diplomas in-person.
“We are always looking for COVID-safe ways of holding a spring commencement,” Wight said during a recent coronavirus briefing as he encouraged all students, faculty and staff to send in potential solutions for a safe ceremony format.
Students should submit suggestions through the university’s Student Government Association or Graduate Student Council, while faculty and staff should send in ideas through the Faculty Senate and Staff Senate.
Parents may also send in potential solutions by email to the firstname.lastname@example.org address.
For more information on SU’s testing protocols or to view the latest university COVID-19 test results, visit https://www.salisbury.edu/coronavirus/testing-info.aspx.
By JAKOB TODD
Featured image courtesy of Salisbury University Facebook page.