Zoe Stratos | Staff Writer
COVID-19 policies are changing over the Easter weekend, and with Gov. Tom Wolf’s recent loosening travel restrictions, Duquesne students are weighing their options of going home for the holiday.
On March 1, the Pennsylvania issues revised COVID-19 travel and occupancy guidelines, with the biggest being the elimination of travel restrictions. This means that people who travel in and out of Pennsylvania no longer need to quarantine, or provide a negative COVID-19 test result upon their return to the state. With this, the state still advises caution and the continued wearing of face masks.
“Pennsylvania is taking a measured approach to revising or lifting mitigation orders,” Gov. Wolf said. “The reason we are seeing cases drop can be attributed, in part, to people following the mitigation efforts we have in place. Mask-wearing, social distancing and hand hygiene are making a difference and need to continue even as we see more and more people fully vaccinated. We need to balance protecting public health with leading the state to a robust economic recovery. We are lifting mitigation efforts only when we believe it is safe to do so.”
On March 15, the state government announced that some of the targeted restrictions placed on restaurants and other businesses will be lifted effective April 4 — Easter weekend.
With both announcements in mind, the university sent an email to students on March 16 regarding their plans for Easter weekend. Although the university has no control over students’ travel plans, they have put in place policies for students to follow when leaving and upon returning from their breaks.
“First, the university strongly suggests that students avoid traveling for the holiday,” said vice president of marketing and communications Gabe Welsch.
Welsch also encouraged students to utilize the free, on-campus testing through SONA before returning home, if they are concerned about bringing the virus home.
“Because the incubation period of the virus is about 4 to 5 days, scheduling a test for 4-5 days after return is optimal. Until then, students are reminded that voluntary self-isolation is important, minimizing contact with others and continuing to monitor daily symptom checker until tests confirm that they do not have COVID-19,” Welsch said.
Upon return, Health Services will have times available starting April 5 to schedule for a COVID-19 test.
As for students staying on campus as the university recommends, a few places on campus will remain open for student use. For those staying, it will be similar to years past. The Incline and Campus Market will be open for dining options, and Sunday will feature a holiday themed menu at The Incline. The Power Center will also be open, but closed only on Easter Sunday. Campus Ministry will hold Mass on Holy Thursday at 7 p.m., and Easter Sunday at 11 a.m. A prayer service will also be held at noon on Good Friday — all while honoring the campus safety guidelines and capacity limits.
One student staying in Pittsburgh for Easter break is junior Ailis Roose. Roose is staying for multiple reasons extra hours at work being one of them. Roose works as a desk aid in St. Martin’s Residence Hall on campus.
“I guess it’s kind of hard for me to justify having an Easter break break still, but taking our spring break away. People are just making Easter break their spring break now and will be traveling anyway, so I wish we had a spring break because burnout is getting real for the students.”
One student going home for Easter break is senior Callan Mullhan. “The email didn’t sway my decision since I’m already in the Pittsburgh area,” said Mullhan. “However, if I lived out of state I would be more inclined to quarantine before returning. Although there’s an added risk with travel, that risk can be lessened by taking the proper steps. Actions such as getting tested, wearing your mask over your nose, and remaining at a safe distance can not only help yourself, but other people.”
Students like Mullhan are excited for the reopening of the state but continue to proceed with caution.
“I think that the restrictions being lifted next month is a good plan. I have been happy to see more people getting vaccinated as well, including myself,” said Mullhan. “As more people are vaccinated, we can begin to reopen as needed. I’ll continue to remain diligent in the Pittsburgh community. I’m still not comfortable eating at restaurants for example, so that part of my routine won’t be changing even when I am home.”
In addition to the guidelines set by Wolf and the Pennsylvania Department of Health, students will also have to abide by the regulations of their home states, should they choose to go to an out-of state home over the course of the five-day Easter Break. Although many surrounding states, including Ohio, are increasing vaccination capacities and ramping up distribution to wider swaths of people, the danger of contracting COVID-19 and the pandemic remain.
Still, it is clear things are looking up on The Bluff. In a recent announcement by the university, the Fall 2021 semester will return to a full on-campus learning environment. But for now, the University will not be making any changes to their guidelines despite Gov. Wolf’s announcement.
“The university campus community has been well served by the conduct and safety regulations currently in place,” Welsch said. “Those rules and practices will remain in place through the end of the academic year, even if regulations loosen elsewhere. Our capacity limits, social distancing expectations, masking rules, hygiene practices, and cleaning protocols will not change as they have proven to be quite effective.”