By Jilleen Barrett, Features/Managing Editor
Each semester seems to bring adjustments to COVID guidelines at Manhattan College. This semester brings one of the most significant changes the school has seen since classes went online in spring 2020 — a shortened isolation period.
According to a OneManhattan email sent on Jan. 28, students and employees who test positive for COVID will be required to isolate themselves for a shortened time period of five days assuming they test negative via a rapid test or show no symptoms of the virus.
“Beginning on Monday January 31, the College will implement the latest guidance from the CDC, New York State and New York City,” the email read. “Any student or employee who tests positive for COVID-19 will be required to isolate for five days. If you then test negative on a rapid test, you can have a modified return to campus for an additional five days, instead of the previous 10-day requirement.”
Esmilda Abreu-Hornbostel, Ph.D., co-chair of OneManhattan and dean of students, told The Quadrangle that the school is advising students to have an off-campus isolation plan coordinated, as there are limited spaces on campus to house sick students.
“We have encouraged everyone to have an isolation and quarantine plan with their families,” Abreu-Hornbostel wrote in an email. “We find that those that can go home for quarantine or isolation often choose this option for additional family support and care while they are sick.”
However, there are other options such as the NYC Hotel Program, which all Manhattan College students are eligible for if they test positive, according to a previously written Quadrangle article.
There are also a few rooms the college can provide if necessary, and Abreu-Hornbostel said the locations of these rooms vary based on CDC requirements for bathrooms and availability. Students in those spaces are able to order food from campus dining services during this time.
“Those students that cannot go home, are offered the NYC Hotel Program if they qualify and if there is space,” Abreu-Hornbostel wrote. “If this is not available or they don’t qualify, then we have a small number of Quarantine/Isolation rooms on campus in a designated area where they can be attended to. The OneManhattan team works to provide information and unpack the various options with the students.”
Abreu-Hornbostel explained that after the five days, while the student may be released if they test negative, he or she will have to adhere to a separate set of COVID-related rules compared to the rest of the community.
“At the end of the five isolation days an antigen test is administered and if negative, the student is given a green pass with an ‘M’ for monitoring and is permitted to leave their rooms with a mask. There is a strict mask wearing policy for the additional five days,” she wrote. “The students would continue to sleep in their isolation room if they are Residents for five more days, but are able to attend classes and get their own grab-and-go meals. The students would be required to wear masks for the additional five days and would not be allowed to go to events or the Fitness Center.”
While isolation measures change, variants continue to spread, which is why in order to avoid having to isolate, director of health services Anne Mavor advises students to be cautious. In an email to The Quadrangle, she explained the school’s decision to move classes online for one week was motivated by the number of people who needed to isolate as COVID rates went up in the area.
“Research shows one infected person can spread and infect another three to four people,” Mavor wrote. “The College has collected data over winter break and with the return to campus testing. The infection rates have been at 25 percent in NYC and this neighborhood … This rate is much higher than our fall semester cases. We need to be careful and stay home when sick, get tested and be vigilant with mask wearing. The college, after seeing the number of infections being submitted, offered the one week remote learning to allow any students and employees the opportunity to recover and not miss class.”
Mavor also mentioned that students who have had COVID in the last 90 days should continue to be careful, especially since there are several variants. She also reiterated that the vaccine “does not prevent infection,” but rather “prevents serious illness.”
In order to continue avoiding serious illness and isolation at any length, Abreu-Hornbostel and Mavor agree that everyone should get vaccinated and boosted if possible. In a previous interview with The Quadrangle, Provost Steven Schreiner said the number of unvaccinated people on campus is “in the upper nineties.”
“We are encouraging everyone who is eligible for a booster to receive one as soon as possible,” Abreu-Hornbostel wrote. “This is strongly recommended because those that are not boosted or not vaccinated will be required to quarantine for five days and then wear a mask for an additional five days if they are exposed to anyone with COVID-19. Alternatively, those that are exposed and boosted will not be required to quarantine (if they are asymptomatic) and are instead able to mask for 10 days post-close contact.”
As for whether the booster will be required on campus anytime soon, Mavor says that decision is up to President O’Donnell.
“The college President is following guidance from many resources and will provide direction,” Mavor wrote. “The current guidance is that the booster is highly recommended for our community health, the individual’s and the greater community.”
Editor’s note: A quote from a previous interview conducted by Caroline McCarthy was used in this article.