Sacred Heart University in Fairfield could suspend in-person classes if the school’s COVID-19 cases don’t slow, President John J. Petillo told students in a video message, saying “a significant number” of them are not taking the pandemic seriously.
“We are at a real point of decision about the future of the semester on-ground,” Petillo said in a video sent to students this week. “We need to turn the tide and get the spread of the virus under control.”
“We cannot continue this way and remain business-as-usual,” Petillo said. “For those of you who want to remain on-ground, we need change.”
In the last seven days alone, Sacred Heart has seen 105 COVID-19 cases, including 22 among on-campus students and 83 among off-campus students. The school has already placed a dorm under quarantine after numerous positive tests, while warning off-campus students about the importance of social distancing.
Sacred Heart has struggled with COVID-19 cases throughout its semester, at one point telling students living in Bridgeport to remain off campus and take all classes remotely until further notice.
In his message Monday, Petillo urged students to wear masks and maintain social distance around anyone they don’t live with. He instructed on-campus students to remain on campus and off-campus students to stay home when possible.
Petillo said “a majority” of students had been “careful and compliant” but that others had not.
Even as Petillo warned about the potential closure of the campus, Sacred Heart announced Tuesday it would lift the quarantine on the Merton Hall dorm for students who have tested negative for COVID-19. The dorm had been under quarantine since the weekend.
So far, no Connecticut college or university has been forced to close for the semester due to COVID-19.
Both UConn and the University of Hartford have also seen their number of coronavirus cases increase in recent days, though to less extents, as college campuses remain a significant source of viral spread.
After adding three more on-campus cases Monday and two more Tuesday, UConn now has 60 students in isolation on the school’s Storrs campus, up from 33 last Thursday.
Neither of the new cases Tuesday were residents of Eddy Hall, the dorm that UConn placed under quarantine over the weekend due to a concentration of cases.
UConn has now seen more than 300 total COVID-19 cases since students returned to campus in August, including 159 among on-campus students and 153 among off-campus students.
The University of Hartford, meanwhile, has 12 active cases as of Tuesday, and has now seen 32 in total. After recording only seven cases in the first two weeks after students returned, Hartford saw 25 from September 7-20.
“We have seen a little bit of an uptick over the last week,” university spokesperson Molly Polk said. “We feel pretty secure about the fact that they are almost all contacts, so they are people we had identified as contacts of other positives.”
The fact the cases are related seems to suggest small clusters as opposed to wide spread, Polk said.
Last Friday, the school announced it would increase the share of its residential population it was testing, from 5-10% to 20-25%, while also including some non-residential students. Polk said that decision came after consultation with other local schools, which have tested more aggressively.
Other local colleges have recorded few or no positive tests in recent days. Central Connecticut State, which had ranked behind only UConn in terms of total cases, has reported none since last Thursday.
Alex Putterman can be reached at email@example.com.
©2020 The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.)
Visit The Hartford Courant (Hartford, Conn.) at www.courant.com
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.