February brought us a record-breaking snowfall along with several significant announcements about restrictions and vaccines.
The HICT continues to meet weekly, monitoring the ever-changing path of the virus, University and public health statistics, and government guidance. We may need to amend our plans and procedures during the semester. Your health and safety remain paramount in Seton Hall’s planning and actions.
Governor Murphy Loosens Indoor Restrictions
On Wednesday, citing "a better understanding of the risks associated with certain activities, the activities that are most conducive to spread of the virus, and the safeguards that can be implemented to mitigate those risks," Governor Murphy announced he is relaxing restrictions on indoor dining and gatherings, effective Friday, February 5. Indoor capacity limits, currently set at 25%, will be raised to 35%. Restaurants may remain open past 10 p.m.
The executive order increases the number of people who can go to performance venues and indoor gatherings, including religious ceremonies or services, wedding ceremonies, political activities, memorial services or funerals. However, events are limited to 150 people, regardless of venue size.
Public Health Data Improves
Hospitalization numbers continue to decrease. The rate of transmission remains below 1, indicating a slowing of the spread of the virus. Some state modeling data indicate New Jersey hit its peak of hospitalizations and positive cases at the end of January. That news, accompanied by greater vaccination efforts, has some officials hopeful the trend will continue.
We are in regular contact with local and county government health officials.
There is a lot of confusion about vaccination eligibility and distribution.
In addition to the state’s vaccination web site, you can find valuable vaccination information through each of the state’s county web sites. Note that the state site is a pre-registration, designed to help you know when you are eligible. It does not register you to receive the vaccination.
Essex County has received high marks for its vaccination process. You can learn more at the Essex County COVID site.
Seton Hall to Increase Surveillance Testing; Implement Across All Three Campuses
The University is increasing its COVID-19 testing to supplement its existing health and safety protocols, beginning February 9.
We have contracted with Healthcare IT Leaders, a national provider of healthcare delivery, for surveillance testing protocols, which include supplying the test checklists, forms and waivers, on-site staffing and administrators, and testing kits.
Currently, random surveillance testing has been conducted for South Orange campus resident students. Starting February 9, random surveillance testing will include non-resident students who have indicated they are returning to campus through the HyFlex modality. All three campuses will be included in the expanded testing.
Although several public health statistics have recently improved, the continued spread of the virus, uncertainty regarding the new variants, and the pace of the state’s vaccination rollout led us to make this decision.
Students selected for surveillance testing will be contacted directly and provided with testing instructions.
Keeping Ourselves and Each Other Healthy
Despite the good news and hope for improved conditions in the near future, we must remain vigilant. Please adhere to the Seton Hall Pledge, a commitment to our shared responsibility to sustain the health and well-being of ourselves, others, and our community each day. Please watch the video about the Pledge; then, take and follow the Pledge.
New Jersey strongly discourages all non-essential interstate travel at this time.
Remember to use #CampusClear every day, whether coming to campus or not.
We have created a COVID-19 Calculator as a useful tool to help determine time in quarantine or isolation and a 90-day calculator for those who previously tested positive and want to determine when they may be susceptible to reinfection.
Our Planning and Actions With You Foremost in Mind
It has been a full year since the pandemic hit our nation’s shores. We have seen the devastating effects of the virus. Not only has it impacted the physical health of millions, but it has taken away the personal interactions that bind us together, causing additional strain on an already hurting populace, especially those most at risk.
We are in this together. And while much of the public health data is encouraging, we remain in a constant battle with COVID-19, adjusting our actions to protect our community. The expansion of our surveillance testing will lead to more identified positive cases - and the need for more quarantine and isolation resources. But it can also help us to identify cases even faster and help to head off significant outbreaks.
The measures we have embraced – mask-wearing, hand-washing, social distancing, nasal swabs, plexiglass, directional arrows on floors - will remain a part of University life for the time being. Our patience, understanding, and empathy will continue to be tested. But we have seen that these actions and practices are those that will keep us and each other safe until vaccines are widely available.
Better days are ahead. Just as Easter follows Lent, so too will our health and safety sacrifices lead to better days – and return us to the time when we may gather together, in person, as one University community.
Your health and safety remain paramount in Seton Hall’s planning and actions. If you have questions, comments or suggestions, please contact the HICT here.
Shawna Cooper-Gibson, Ed.D.
Vice President of Student Services
Matthew Borowick '89/MBA '94
Vice President of University Relations
Co-chairs, Health Intervention and Communication Team
Categories: Health and Medicine