The Sacred Heart University Coronavirus Planning Team sent out an advisory email on Sept. 7 regarding the university’s updated policies regarding COVID-19 on campus. The newest COVID-19 variant, referred to by the CDC as “BA.2.86” also known as “Pirola” is a highly mutated Omicron that has spread globally.
“The email was concerning at first since my freshman year was so negatively affected by the virus, but now we know more and can plan accordingly, said senior Caroline Abrams, who experienced her first year at SHU under strict Covid restrictions. “I remain hopeful for no restrictions. It is nice they addressed it so that the whole campus community is on the same page.”
According to the Connecticut Department of Public Health (CTDPH), as of Aug. 1, since Oct. 2022, the cumulative number of laboratory-confirmed and probable COVID-19 cases reported among Connecticut residents is 983,652. In the neighboring SHU communities, the cases of COVID-19 in Bridgeport total 48,917 and Fairfield reports 18,493.
In an interview by email, Michael Iannazzi, Senior Vice President for Administration responded as a spokesperson for himself and Gary MacNamara, Executive Director of Public Safety & Governmental Affairs. Both Iannazzi and MacNamara serve as co-chairs of the university’s Coronavirus Planning Team.
Despite the rising cases, both SHU’s Coronavirus Planning Team and students, “remain focused on monitoring the COVID environment and reacting quickly when needed,” said Iannazzi in the email.
In joint efforts with the broader community including local health authorities and neighboring institutions, the university’s Coronavirus Planning Team “remains in contact with our fellow universities statewide on a regular basis to learn of trends and share best practices,” Iannazzi said in their email.
Per SHU’s coronavirus policy, there is currently no mask mandate, no restrictions for in-person classes or activities, and no
requirement for vaccines or boosters. Iannazzi said in the email interview, “We also have regular discussions with our local health officials. As we have done since the beginning, we continue to look to the CDC for guidance.” According to CVS, as of Sept. 12, an updated vaccine to combat new variants of the COVID-19 virus is available at local pharmacies. Detailed in SHU’s Coronavirus on-campus policies, students are not required but encouraged to receive the booster to prevent the spread and lessen symptoms if COVID-19 is contracted.
Some students compared the surge of Covid to the flu and noted a sense of adaptability and normalcy to the virus.
“Like the flu, COVID-19 will come and go, we must learn to live with the virus and not be debilitated by its presence,” said Junior Annalisa Diaz. “It sounds like common sense, a narrative we have heard once before. If we did it once, we can do it again. COVID is something our campus has combatted before; it is important we stay updated and safe.”
If symptomatic, students are urged to continue getting tested. Via appointment through the University, in conjunction with Yale, Student Health Services will perform a saliva-based COVID-19 test, referred to as Saliva Direct. The results of these tests typically take 24-48 hours.
“Mask if you live with others. Wash your hands often. Be mindful of your symptoms. Be in touch with your healthcare providers. Keep hydrated and rest, rest, rest, until you are back to normal without any symptoms at all,’ said Iannazzi.
Sacred Heart’s Coronavirus policy urges students who experience COVID-19-like symptoms or test positive for COVID-19 to follow common CDC protocols.
“Like the flu, we expect that it will come and go throughout the university community,” said Iannazzi. “So, our efforts continue to be on education and reminding people that it is still out there and to be mindful of your own personal health and hygiene while we all learn to adapt and live with it.”