By Lauren Raziano, Copy Editor/Web Editor
Before the Manhattan College community returned to campus for the fall 2022 semester, the One Manhattan Office sent an email on Aug. 22 sharing updated COVID-19 guidelines.
The office presented the percentage of the up-to-date individuals in the community with the COVID-19 vaccine, both the initial vaccination and the booster shot.
“As the summer comes to a close, we are excited to welcome students back to campus and to greet new and returning colleagues next week. As of August 17, 81% of students and 89% of employees are fully up-to-date with the COVID-19 vaccine,” the One Manhattan Office email said.
Bryan Wilkins, Ph.D., associate professor of chemistry at Manhattan College, wrote in an email to The Quadrangle that the campus is above the national average with their number of vaccinated individuals.
“I feel that these numbers could be better across campus but that the school is in a decent position,” Wilkins wrote. “I believe the national average of those over the age of 18 and fully vaccinated is roughly 77%. That average in NY state is about 88% (over the age of 18). Our campus is within those ranges, although I would have liked to see more of the student population receiving their full series of vaccinations.”
The One Manhattan email encouraged further widespread vaccination among the Manhattan College community.
“Vaccination is the leading prevention strategy to protect individuals from COVID-19. A growing body of evidence shows that people who are up to date with their vaccines are at substantially reduced risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated individuals,” the email wrote.
Furthermore, the email wrote that the financial burden on students, employees and the college is reduced by community vaccination.
“In addition, vaccines help reduce the spread of COVID-19 and reduce the financial burden on students, employees, and the College. We strongly encourage everyone to be fully up-to-date on vaccinations for the health and safety of the community,” the email wrote.
In addition to changing protocols, there will be no COVID-19 test providers available on-campus for the fall 2022 semester. To minimize risks, Health Services recommends that all individuals complete a COVID-19 home test in the 24 hours before their first day on-campus.
“There will be no COVID-19 test providers available on-campus Fall 2022. All individuals should do a COVID-19 home test in the 24 hours before their first day on-campus for the Fall semester and report any positives; there is no need to report negative tests, unless directed by Health Services,” the email wrote.
The daily symptom tracker has been revised to be a symptom tracker that individuals will be required to fill out only once before the start of the semester.
“The Daily Symptom Tracker has been revised to be a Symptom Tracker to reflect the guidelines above and is no longer required to be completed daily for access to campus. The Symptom Tracker should be completed once on your first day back for the fall semester. This Green pass will allow access to campus for the semester,” the email wrote.
In addition, the visitor policy has been updated to match CDC guidelines.
“In line with the CDC updates and the removal of the Key to NYC requirements, visitors to campus will no longer be required to be fully up-to-date on COVID-19 vaccinations. Visitors should still take the Symptom Tracker to receive a green pass on the morning that they arrive on campus,” the email wrote.
The college may require masks at large indoor events, but the One Manhattan office has decided that the college will not require masks in indoor or outdoor spaces unless it is requested.
“Masks will not be required indoors or outdoors except in classes by faculty request, in administrative offices by request, and in Health Services, though they are highly recommended for high risk individuals, as well as those who have been exposed to COVID-19 (see below) or who have recently tested positive,” the email wrote.
Although Wilkins will be on sabbatical this semester, he shared his stance on masking in classrooms and labs in different situations.
“I am on sabbatical this semester and will not be teaching courses. However, I believe I would ask students to wear masks if it was a class with a large enrollment in a room that was at capacity,” Wilkins wrote. “In lab spaces that have ventilation, less students, and room for social distancing, I would make it optional.”
Madeline Byrne, senior chemical engineering major, is choosing to wear a mask this semester amongst these changes.
“My professors personally don’t seem to mind if we wear masks or not,” Byrne wrote. “Last semester I stopped wearing a mask only to be met with the spread of COVID through our very small major. As someone who is immunocompromised, I now have to be one of the people who ‘can’t let it go’ when it comes to wearing masks. I probably will have to continue to wear one for my own health and safety.”
Another public health crisis was presented to New York City this summer with the rise of Monkeypox cases, which is “a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus,” according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC).
A total of 2,888 monkeypox cases have been reported by the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as of Aug. 26.
“I really am nervous,” Byrne wrote. “Especially since we’ve taken away all the PPE requirements, there will be a lot of backlash from people if it needs to be reinstated. I will be getting vaccinated when I have the opportunity but unfortunately I feel like that’s all that’s currently available. The only thing I can do beyond that is wear my mask, monitor any possible symptoms, and hope that I’m not the lab rat for the college.”
Wilkins is not immediately concerned about a possible Monkeypox spread in the campus community.
“I do not get the sense that Monkeypox is of immediate concern on campus but I do not think this means that the college is not worried about it,” Wilkins wrote. “I encourage students to be honest and vigilant about potential symptoms and to use their better judgment when in spaces of close contact with others on campus.”
For those who want to get vaccinated against Monkeypox, Anne Mavor MSN., APRN., director of Health Services, shared in an email with The Quadrangle that although the college will not be offering a vaccination clinic at this time, there are two vaccination sites available in the Bronx.
“The College will not be offering a vaccination clinic at this time as all doses are being managed through the NYC Department of Health,” Mavor wrote.
With these high levels in NYS, Byrne thinks that it is concerning that the college has not said anything about Monkeypox disease.
“I think that they’re so nervous to do anything about it and especially don’t want to face the backlash of setting up precautions. I get it, but it is concerning not to hear anything,” Byrne wrote.
Wilkins, however, believes that the precautions the college currently has for COVID-19 will be sufficient enough to prevent the spread of Monkeypox.
“I believe a lot of the precautions that we already have in place for COVID-19 help alleviate some of the threats of Monkeypox spreading,” Wilkins wrote. “Since the beginning of the pandemic I have shifted a majority of my assignments to being submitted electronically. I even do this in the lab now, using an electronic notebook. This eliminates the need for having to physically handle papers and notebooks from students, limiting the spread of any viruses in general.”
The Quadrangle will continue to cover any public health information released by the college or the One Manhattan Office throughout the semester.