COVID-19 Improvements as the Semester Comes to a Close

By, Karen Flores & Mack Olmsted, Staff Writers

As the first semester of in person classes at Manhattan comes to a close following the remote and hybrid approach of the pandemic, the college’s continuous promotion of COVID-19 safety measures and precautions has led to a drastic decrease in positive cases within the campus.

In an email to the Manhattan College community, One Manhattan reported that within 14 days before Thanksgiving break, Health Services had documented zero active COVID-19 cases on campus.

COVID-19 protocols have remained the same throughout the semester with the requirement of vaccination, indoor mark wearing and answering the Daily Symptom Tracker (DTS) enforced for all faculty and students. Individuals with medical and religious exemptions get tested weekly for COVID, and all individuals who answer that have some risk of COVID, whether through travel exposure symptoms or positive testing, are interviewed by Health Services. One Manhattan also provides contact tracing for all positive cases.

Anne Mavor, director of Health Services, pointed out that during the spring 2021 semester the campus experienced a significant outbreak of cases as this was before the vaccination was available to most of the campus community.

“Vaccination has prevented the need to quarantine when exposed to a positive person. This has been a great improvement in terms of students not missing valuable time on campus and employees not missing work on campus, whether faculty teaching, other employees running programs, or handling business of the College,” Mavor said.

Mavor stated that 96 percent of the campus community is vaccinated, and in combination with the mask mandate has allowed for the college to provide more learning and extracurricular activities and kept the number of positive cases relatively low.

However, with the first cases of the Omicron variant appearing in the US, the college encourages students and faculty to get booster shots before the beginning of the spring semester.

“As the CDC said, everyone 18 years or older should get a third (or second) shot of the COVID-19 vaccine” the email sent by One Manhattan on December 3rd said.

On Thursday December 9th from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the college will be hosting a vaccine clinic in partnership with Desai Pharmacy at Smith auditorium. They will be providing booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines. They will also be providing second doses of the Moderna and Pfizer shots.

Health Services also began offering telehealth last academic year and by January 2021, the facility was upgraded and antigen testing became more available. They began offering this valuable rapid testing that allowed for faster diagnosis if a test was positive. The PCR viral test is the “gold standard” of testing which has been available throughout the pandemic. The test results may take 1-5 days depending on the lab. It has allowed for individuals with positive results to be isolated sooner in turn lowering the spread of the virus.

Paul Droubie, Ph.D., assistant professor of history, spoke about how he thought this semester was going in terms of COVID-19 precautions and requirements.

“This year is definitely easier, it’s all in person, and Manhattan College has been very successful with controlling outbreaks and now with vaccines and staying on top of it,” Droubie said. “Overall it feels a lot safer than last year.”

He believes that Manhattan College requiring vaccines along with mask requirements will continue to aid in preventing the rapid spread of the virus.

“The brightside to all of this is that Manhattan College is continuing to keep us safe,” he said.

Droubie explained how the pandemic allowed him to achieve new skill sets and taught him how to work with students both online and in person while gaining a new perspective on teaching under extreme circumstances.

Students like Tom Rivera, a sounds studies major, are looking forward to the upcoming semester. He feels more comfortable with having in person classes and believes that the college’s protocols were relatively effective at keeping students safe as a whole.

Ana O’Neil, a nuclear medicine major, shares the same sentiments as Rivera about the successes of the in person semester.

“ I think [the protocols] were very effective in terms of keeping students and faculty safe,” O’Neil said. “It has allowed for people to come together. I look forward to the start of the new semester as well as meeting my professors.”

The pandemic is not over, but promising statistics, working together and the cautionary measures are helping the community return back to some semblance of normalcy.

“I think one thing that the Manhattan College community has taken away over the course of this pandemic is that we are a society who relies on each other. We are important to each other and our relationships to each other matters very much. Manhattan College is so creative and I am very appreciative of that,” Droubie said.