Starting Thursday, Oct. 8, students living on campus will be able to visit one another in on-campus residences—provided the number of guests does not exceed the COVID-19 capacity—according to an all-campus email issued on Monday, Oct. 5, by Residential Life (ResLife) Director Fran Koerting.
This marks a shift from the University’s COVID-19 policy thus far, which prohibited guests from entering the residences of other students.
According to the email, the University’s other COVID-19 precautions will remain in place.
“Posted COVID-19 capacity in common areas may not be exceeded, and no more than two individuals may be in a bedroom at the same time, including the room occupant(s),” Koerting wrote in the all-campus email. “Face coverings must be worn at all times.”
The rule applies to all on-campus housing and includes bathrooms.
This change is a result of a few elements, one of which is the lack of COVID-19 cases on campus and in Connecticut. Connecticut will enter Phase Three of its reopening plan on Oct. 8, in which restaurants, hair salons, and other similar higher-contact establishments (excluding bars and clubs) will be allowed to increase capacity from 50% to 75%, outdoor event venues to increase from 25% to 50% capacity with masks and distancing, indoor performing arts venues to open at 50% capacity, and indoor religious events to run up to 50% capacity, capped at 200 people.
“We had said all along that if conditions were going well, we would like to loosen up the restrictions a little bit for students on campus,” Koerting said in an interview with The Argus. “We thought coinciding it with [Connecticut]…now relaxing their restrictions a little bit, starting tomorrow, we thought that that would be good timing.”
Another reason for this change is the impending winter.
“We’re hearing from a lot of students about feeling very isolated and not being able to visit their friends,” Koerting said. “Particularly with the colder weather…coming, it’s going to be harder for people to visit outside, which is what a lot of them have been doing.”
While students will be able to enter each other’s residences, students will not be allowed to grant other students guest card access to their residences.
“We’re not considering [guest card access] at this point because we really want to make sure that if a student’s going to visit somebody else, that person is there,” Koerting said. “And so if that’s the case, you don’t need the guest card access to get into the building because that student can let you in.”
Koerting does not anticipate any further relaxations of COVID-19 restrictions for the rest of the semester.
“Particularly because we’re so close to the end of the semester, I think what I’ve heard is beginning of next semester, we’ll go back to the way we started this semester,” Koerting said. “When people come back, it’s likely to be a 14-day quarantine again, until we make sure that nobody is contagious.”
If COVID-19 cases at the University spike, ResLife will likely rescind this policy.
“The first step would be going back to the original policy that only students that live in those residences are allowed in those residences,” Koerting said. “So the whole concern is contact tracing and the more individuals that are exposed and bring it back to another community, the quicker it can spread. That’s why we didn’t allow it to begin with so that if there was a small spread within a particular residence, it was contained to that residence. Once you let other students visit and they’re exposed and they go back to another location, it’s spreading that much more quickly across campus.”
Annika Shiffer-Delegard can be reached at email@example.com