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University Monitors Covid-19 and Monkeypox Viruses While Easing Restrictions

By Joanna Reid

Last spring, Adelphi finally announced that masks on campus would be optional. But when Covid-19 cases began to rise in Garden City, the administration reexamined the situation and reinforced the mandate for the end of the semester. Earlier this month, the university released its plans and policies for handling the virus this fall, while also monitoring the growing spread of the monkeypox virus. Here is what to expect this semester.

In an email sent to all students and staff regarding updates to the coronavirus policies, Gene Palma, vice president of University Wellness, Safety and Administration, wrote: “I feel optimistic that this semester will be rewarding, with almost all Covid-19 restrictions rolled back.”

Although Adelphi recommends wearing masks indoors and in crowded spaces, mask-wearing on campus is now optional. There are a few exceptions to this rule; for example, staff can enforce the usage of masks in classes, studios, laboratories and offices.

As per New York State laws, one must wear a mask in all healthcare facilities regardless of vaccination status. On campus, this will include the Health Services Center, Hy Weinberg Center for Communication Disorders, the Student Counseling Center and all centers for psychological services.

Adelphi must comply with New York State laws for handling quarantining too. This means that people who are infected with the virus must isolate themselves for at least five full days after their symptoms begin. According to the New York State Health Department, after being released from quarantine, one must wear a mask around others for an additional five days. Nicole Gaudino, executive director of University Health and Wellness, said Adelphi will continue to provide quarantine and isolation spaces on campus for those students who are unable to go home if they are exposed or become ill with Covid-19.

Furthermore, Adelphi is following federal transportation guidelines. Therefore, face coverings are also required on the shuttle service that the university provides.

Adelphi continues to require that all students be fully vaccinated against Covid-19, unless one has an approved medical or religious exemption. This is a part of Adelphi’s immunization requirements. Additionally, all staff members are expected to be fully vaccinated or test negative for the virus on a weekly basis. At this time, booster shots are not required for students and staff.

Another change to Adelphi’s Covid policies is the daily health screenings. Students are no longer expected to complete the daily screening on the Adelphi app; however the university suggests calling Health Services for anyone who develops any symptoms of Covid-19.

As of press time, according to county data there were 352 new cases of Covid-19 reported in Nassau County, where the university is located. Fortunately, there has only been one positive case detected on campus as of August 15, but this could certainly change when the on-campus population increases this week.

The university has created four alert levels, ranging from “high risk” (red), “moderate risk” (orange), “low-to-moderate risk” (yellow), all the way to “new normal” (blue). Adelphi is currently at a “blue level,” meaning that positive cases are less than 3 percent of the population.

According to Gaudino, the Health and Wellness Team continues to monitor the pandemic and follow the mitigation steps that are already in place.

“Should our on-campus and local positivity rates rise to any of the established thresholds, Adelphi is prepared to adapt and update our policies to include steps like masking, social distancing and capacity restrictions,” she said. “These decisions are always based on our local positivity rate, official guidance from the Department of Health (local and New York State), recommendations of the CDC and all current scientific data.”

Gaudino said that in addition to the coronavirus pandemic, her office is carefully monitoring the evolving monkeypox outbreak. “We are prepared to adapt as needed to any changes in the public health landscape and official guidance from the Department of Health. Presently, Adelphi has no plans to move academic activities to a virtual format.”

Gaudino added, “According to current CDC guidance, the transmission of monkeypox requires close contact with an infected individual, animal, body fluids, secretions or a contaminated surface. As the university continues a robust cleaning schedule in response to the current public health situation, our health experts strongly encourage you to continue following the recommendations for personal hygiene and protective practices. They are proven highly effective in preventing the spread of viruses.”

She advised thorough and frequent hand-washing, self-monitoring for symptoms, avoiding close contact with individuals who may be sick and not attending class or work if you do become ill. The Adelphi community can also review the CDC’s recommended prevention steps for minimizing exposure to monkeypox.

“Additionally, while we acknowledge the general fatigue people are feeling about regular mask-wearing, we recommend continued mask usage in crowded public places and at large gatherings to minimize potential contact with someone’s respiratory droplets,” Gaudino said.

Hopefully positive cases of both diseases will remain low and Adelphi can continue to operate at a level that resembles pre-pandemic life.

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