Update, October 29: another SHU student tested positive for Covid, according to the university: “On October 28, our testing protocols detected a student living off-campus, already in quarantine, who tested positive for COVID-19. Health Services identified the student through contact tracing related to a previously reported case. Any contacts identified in our community have been notified along with the local Department of Health.”
Three more Seton Hall students tested positive for Covid-19, bringing the University’s total since reopening in July to 41. (The total since the pandemic began is 48. See SHU’s Covid dashboard for more information.) The cases have been traced to another student, with contact tracing showing community spread from two “clusters” of Covid cases among the student body.
Here’s the report from a spokeswoman:
“On October 27, our testing protocols detected three students who tested positive for COVID-19. Health Services identified two of the students through contact tracing related to a previously reported case.
Two of these students are in quarantine in Ora Manor. The third student is in isolation off-campus. Any contacts identified in our community have been notified along with the local Department of Health.”
Since October, more than 30 members of the University community (most of whom are students from the South Orange and other campuses, as well as several employees) have tested positive — a large increase over August and September cases. Several of the more recent cases appear to be related to two clusters: one among athletic teams and the other within a Greek organization.
Seton Hall reported earlier this week that as cases rise across the state and country, the school is also experiencing an increase in positive cases — although rates remain “substantially below county and state rates.” The University notes most cases are occurring off campus — but that is little comfort to South Orange residents, where many students live in off-campus housing and socialize in the town.
“Gatherings on and off campus should not be happening,” said University spokeswoman Laurie Pine on Wednesday. “Our updated Student Code of Conduct outlines procedures, guidelines and policies that address student behavior. We are providing a robust educational component to our students that emphasizes health and safety and community standards, including workshops, programming, and regular communications.”
She noted that the University has no authority over non-University housing, and students living in private housing are expected to adhere to the Code of Conduct as well as the regulations within South Orange Village.
Pine said members of the University’s Health Intervention and Communication Team meet weekly with Village health officials to review the latest information. Contact tracing done with the Village confirmed that the majority of recent cases came from those two clusters. “The individuals in these clusters worked closely with the University on testing, tracing and consultation. …Health privacy laws prohibit the release of individual names or further identifying information. Health Services continues to regularly conduct surveillance testing and additional testing for students living on campus and off.”
Regarding the cluster arising from a Greek organization, Pine said the University “does not have any fraternity or sorority housing, either on or off-campus. Our Student Code of Conduct addresses student behavior on and off campus, and reflects the expectations outlined in the Seton Hall Pledge with an educational model that includes escalating sanctions.”
She continued, “…students who do not comply with the expectations outlined in the Seton Hall Pledge or the Student Code of Conduct can face sanctions including…warnings and fines as well as suspensions and expulsions.” She said the University plans to donate any fines collected to the South Orange Rescue Squad.
Some students who test positive are sent to quarantine at Ora Manor, an off-campus housing building in South Orange, where they are monitored and supported. “Public Safety monitors the building and has staff onsite. The University follows all state guidance and provides extensive education on isolation and quarantining responsibilities to our students. In addition, we provide food service, academic support, health monitoring, required transportation and other essential services to these students.”
With Halloween approaching, Pine said the University was working closely with Village officials to educate the SHU community about safe practices.
“In order for each of us to remain healthy and safe, we understand that we all must be vigilant in our health and safety protocols and abide by the Seton Hall Pledge,” she said. “To limit the spread of COVID-19, we know that gatherings on and off campus should not be happening. Any violation is selfish and will be dealt with through our Dean of Students Office.”
Pine continued, “We are serious about keeping the well-being of our community paramount and we will swiftly address violations. We ask that any members of the community who have questions or information to share should reach out through our Questions and Feedback form: https://www.shu.edu/health-
Beginning two weeks before Thanksgiving, SHU will make testing available to both residential students and students living in the local community before returning home. The last day of classes is November 24, and the Spring semester begins January 27, 2021, Pine said. There will be no spring break.
Seton Hall plans to continue to use a mix of in-person and remote learning in the spring, with fewer students on campus at a given time.
“While the current incident rate does not warrant pivoting to fully remote instruction, it is possible that additional clusters may well require such action…”, Pine said. “No one factor will dictate this decision as we continue to maintain flexibility to accommodate emerging scenarios and monitor a number of data points as we provide a robust academic experience while prioritizing the overall health and safety of the University community as well that of our neighbors.”