Rollins Students Return Amid Pandemic

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Since sending students home this March prior to the conclusion of the Spring semester as a result of COVID-19, Rollins College has issued numerous strategy updates regarding its plans for a return to campus for Fall 2020. In August, the college began welcoming back select groups of students such as peer mentors and residential assistants for in-person training and last week general move in days took place. After kicking off classes on Monday of this week, Rollins is officially navigating a semester in the midst of the pandemic after months of planning.

Rollins College students gather for an outdoor class.
Some classes, such as this one taking place on the shore of Lake Virginia, are held outside to reduce risk.

Students, whether residential or commuter, underwent a wellness screening and temperature check upon their arrival to campus. Students who displayed one or more symptom of COVID-19, or had been in close contact with someone who was positive, were administered rapid results test and isolated for the 30-minute duration it took to receive results. According to the Rollins College COVID-19 Dashboard, which will continue to be updated daily, the college’s Wellness Center has administered 80 tests during the last week, seven of which returned positive. Currently, the college has one on-campus student quarantined, and of off-campus students, 11 have been asked to quarantine and nine to isolate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), quarantine requires the individual to separate from others and monitor their health, while isolation requires an infected individual to remain in a designated “sick room” and use a separate bathroom if possible to eliminate any shared spaces with non-infected individuals.

Students who chose to attend the semester in person as well as faculty, staff, and anyone visiting campus, are required to wear masks at all times on campus, unless inside a private living space or office alone, adhere to the six-foot physical distancing guideline, and avoid large gatherings.

Sign on Rollins College campus announcing required mask policy.
The college requires all students, faculty, staff, and visitors to wear masks on campus.

During an orientation event organized by the college last week, there was a large gathering of first-year students and peer mentors on Mills Lawn. The organized groups at points exceeded 30 people, a violation of the college’s own health and safety guidelines.

Leon Hayner, dean of students with the Office of Residential Life & Explorations, issued a statement on Instagram over the weekend in response to the event. “We acknowledge that these events didn’t meet your, or our, expectations,” Hayner said. “We believe the risk was low, as everyone was masked, but this does violate our protocols, and for that we are sorry.” Hayner went on to explain that the college’s leadership team discussed the issue and is making adjustments accordingly.

All students are also required to abide by the Tars Promise, which commits them to health and safety guidelines both on and off campus. Included in the Tars Promise commitment is daily self-monitoring for temperature and symptoms through the #CampusClear mobile app.

Students gather in small group at Rollins College.
Small groups gather outside on campus.

The college encourages all students, faculty, and staff to participate in asymptomatic diagnostic testing through Protean Diagnostics, which is being provided free over the next several weeks. Additionally, wastewater effluent from residential halls will be tested weekly using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis with CDC novel coronavirus primers. If the tests indicate a rise in infection, it can give the college up to a seven-day advance notice to respond by testing all students in the building. Should the occasion for contact tracing arise, the school has partnered with Rapid-Trace for support in the process.

It has also been noted by the college that a factor strongly impacting the ability to successfully continue the semester in person at other schools is the high-risk threat of large social gatherings taking place mostly off campus. Multiple universities have already transitioned from in-person or hybrid learning formats to mainly remote plans after COVID-19 cases spiked among students as a result of festivities where masks and social distancing were scarce or non-existent. Colleges that have suspended in-person learning due to outbreaks after unauthorized gatherings include University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and University of Notre Dame. Others have banned individual students from campus if they refused to follow safety guidelines, such as Purdue University and Syracuse University.

Earlier this week, the State of Florida announced that bars and nightclubs are permitted to reopen. Rollins College is strongly encouraging students as part of the Tars Promise to avoid any high-risk gatherings that could potentially threaten their health and the remainder of the semester.

Resources and information regarding Rollins’ plans can be found on the college’s COVID-19 webpage.

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