Colleen Hammond | News Editor
As Duquesne’s first fully hybrid semester comes to a close, university administration has attempted to lay out a plan for students as they return home for Thanksgiving and the subsequent two-month semester break.
COVID-19 cases have reached an all time high in the U.S. this week, and Allegheny County has been reporting more than 100 new cases everyday for the past three weeks. At the time of publication, Duquesne has reported 100 students are currently in isolation either on campus or at home, and an additional 309 students are currently under quarantine (66 in a hotel and 243 at home).
This has posed serious questions about finishing the semester safely and allowing students to return home without bringing COVID-19 with them.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention repeatedly states on it’s website “Staying home is the best way to protect yourself and others from COVID-19.”
This sentiment was partially echoed by an unsigned statement sent to all Duquesne students urging them to “wind down and limit contact” with others for 14 days prior to their departure from campus. Despite this recommendation for students to quarantine before leaving, the university is continuing to hold
in-person classes up until Thanksgiving break as initially planned.
In addition to the encouragement to “limit contact,” but not quarantine, the university is advising students to follow another CDC guideline for COVID-19 travel.
“The university is recommending that all students take a COVID-19 test prior to your return home for Thanksgiving and the conclusion of the fall 2020 semester,” said the statement.
The statement also said that all students will be able to obtain an Everlywell COVID-19 Test Home Collection Kit at the university’s expense. These kits will be available for pick up in the Towers Multipurpose Room from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. starting on Thursday, Nov. 19.
Students who pick up a collection kit will be able to administer the COVID-19 test from the safety of their current residence and either ship it to the lab or drop it off in the designated receptacle, also in the Towers Multipurpose Room.
Students were advised to carefully plan when they administer the test to themselves depending on their mode of travel. The email also encouraged students to, once again, “limit contact” with people outside their pod from the time they administer the test to the time of their departure to ensure the test results.
However, it is unclear how long the shipping and testing process will take, further adding to the struggle of students planning when to get tested.
Although the statement said test results will be available on Everlywell’s website anywhere from 24-48 hours after receiving the sample, it did not state how, or even if, students could track their sample during the shipping process.
“The speed and ease of use make the test kits ideal for meeting the variety of circumstances students are managing during the transition from campus to home,” the statement said.
Still, hope is on the horizon this week as Pfizer announced that their new COVID-19 vaccine has proven over 90% effective in clinical trials. This vaccine will not be an overnight remedy to this international crisis, but experts are hopeful that the Pfizer vaccine will receive emergency FDA approval and will start to be administered to the general public within the next few months.
Since widespread use of the vaccine is still far in the future, university administration did not comment on how, or when, it would be given to students, should it become available during the spring 2021 semester.
Despite the growing concern over cases, Duquesne University President Ken Gormley remained confident in students’ return to campus for the spring semester.
“For the spring semester, classes will resume on Thursday, January 21, 2021, allowing plenty of time for students to again limit outside contact for 14 days prior to returning to campus,” Gormley said.