Rider continues to stave off high COVID-19 numbers

By Shaun Chornobroff

Prepare for the worst and hope it doesn’t happen. That was the mentality Rider’s COVID-19 implementation team had when the coronavirus outbreak occurred in early 2020 and continues to have to this day. Especially when the school decided it was allowing fully in-person instruction for the 2021- 2022 school year.

The school has staved off the worst case scenario, with the university only seeing 33 positive COVID-19 cases in the fall semester as of Nov. 5, according to the university dashboard which is updated every week.

“I am still feeling good about where we stand COVID positive wise, because the numbers are still relatively low. And that’s despite all the testing, which you can see in the dashboard,” said Debbie Stasolla, Rider’s vice president for strategic initiatives and planning and secretary to the board, who is also one of the leaders of the implementation team.

The low number is a pleasant surprise for the implementation team, as they are well aware this semester could have gotten off to a significantly worse start.

“I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect. And frankly, when you do this kind of planning, you got to prepare for the worst, right?” Stasolla said. “So that’s why we put aside the entire University House [Rider’s quarantine and isolation housing], thinking we were going to be using it a lot, potentially. So far we haven’t. … My job was to mobilize my colleagues to think in terms of any kind of emergency planning, you want to prepare for the potential worse, and so far, that has not come to fruition.”

The latest update to the dashboard displayed four positive cases from Oct. 30 to Nov. 5, which were evenly split between students and faculty. The previous week, from Oct. 23-29, the dashboard reported zero positive cases for the first time this semester.

The university administered 327 COVID-19 tests between Oct. 30 and Nov. 5, the dashboard said, with the Student Health Center administering 32 COVID-19 tests itself.

In the early parts of the semester, the university had several students who failed to appear for required surveillance or weekly testing. These students were referred to the Office of Community Standards for violation 4.12, “Failure to adhere to campus-wide pandemic/emergency directives” of the Student Code of Social Conduct.

The violation, which Stasolla said was established at the beginning of the pandemic, is written as a “failure to adhere to directives issued in response to pandemics and other campuswide emergencies/unusual situations and designed to protect the health, safety and well-being of all members of the Rider community including students, faculty, staff and visitors.”

Stasolla explained that as the university started enforcing this violation, the number skipping mandatory testing decreased.

“For some students that was a wake up call,” she said. “You probably pay a little more attention to getting an email from the Office of Community Standards saying that you’ve got to talk to a judicial officer because you’re in violation of the code of conduct, and you risk removal for housing or suspension, depending upon the severity of your violation of this policy.”

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