COVID cases continue to climb

By Stephen Neukam

Five more confirmed coronavirus cases were reported by Rider, as the university continues a late-semester uptick in cases just weeks before winter break, according to statistics released by the school on Nov. 10.

The cases are mirrored by a continued surge in students in quarantine on the campus, with 96 students entering quarantine housing in the past four weeks.

In the first nine weeks of the semester, just 28 individuals had been in quarantine.

Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla said that none of the positive cases came from the university’s surveillance testing program and just one came from testing through the Student Health Center. Student positives can also be reported to the university through outside care providers.

While Stasolla said the university is “always concerned” about positive cases, she was confident that Rider has dealt with possible outbreaks responsibly. In the last couple of weeks, four unrelated cases of the virus had been discovered in Hill Hall, the most populated residence hall on campus. After placing temporary restrictions on the residents, urging them to stay in their rooms as much as possible, 26 students in the dorm volunteered for testing. None of the tests returned positive and restrictions on theresidents were lifted.

Stasolla said that the increase in quarantined students could be correlated to an increase in positive cases. The more confirmed cases of the virus, the more students will be determined as “close contacts” and will be placed in quarantine.

The university announced that it would extend free testing for students before they return home for the winter, beginning the week of Nov. 16. Stasolla said that the university wanted to help students construct responsible plans for a return back home.

“To give people peace of mind, and help them in their planning, we are offering this testing,” said Stasolla.

However, Stasolla emphasized that getting tested will only provide students with a temporary idea of their health situation — every moment after getting tested, a student could have contracted the virus.

“That testing is done at a point in time,” said Stasolla. “Students really need to be talking with their families, their health care provider, about when best to be tested. They can’t let their guard down.”

The announcement to students about the testing includes an advisory that warns “students should be reminded that the test only reflects one point in time, there can be false negative results, and, in some cases, the virus may be contracted during travel.”

The university’s initiative comes as public health officials and political leaders across the country warn about the dangers of college students returning home and going to family gatherings for the holidays. The students’ return also comes as the virus continues to break records all around the nation.

Rider President Gregory Dell’Omo announced that the university would expand its surveillance testing program in the spring semester, at a town hall on Nov. 5. Stasolla said that plans for the program are still being worked through and would be sorted out over the winter.

The current infrastructure for the surveillance program was just a temporary arrangement to get the university started for the last five weeks of the fall semester.

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