Rowan students flooded back to campus this fall to be back in-person, around their friends again. They returned with the understanding that they would be required to wear masks for two weeks — at which point the university would re-evaluate based on transmission trends.
On Sept. 7, a Rowan Announcer email informed students and faculty that the mask mandate, regardless of vaccination status, would continue until the end of the month.
During the month of September, the university will “continue to monitor transmission rates in and around [the Glassboro and Camden] campuses” and “will reevaluate the requirement as conditions warrant.”
According to Rowan’s report of weekly confirmed positive COVID-19 cases that is found on their website, the first week of school brought along only 20 new cases across all campuses — which includes both, student and faculty reports.
This number is drastically down from the 41, 58 and 43 weekly cases that the university faced in February of this year. These are just the reported numbers; the actual number of cases could be higher. The university strongly urges individuals who have tested positive to report their test results to the Wellness Center.
More accurate reporting of COVID-19 transmission on campus allows university officials to make the best informed decisions when it comes to handling the virus on campus, moving forward.
To discuss the university’s concerns, plans and future — in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic — employees and administrators met via WebEx meeting on Sept. 9.
“We are certainly seeing cases. That is happening, and that is expected to happen. [We’re] currently tracking 38 active cases in students and seven active cases in employees, but that’s a fluid number. That’s going up and down because that’s a ten-day window we’re looking at,” said Scott Woodside, director for student health services. “We are seeing positive cases in vaccinated [individuals] as well, so that’s one of the reasons we’re expanding [testing].”
As of Sept. 9, 86.3% of students taking in-person courses for the Fall 2021 semester are vaccinated. Another 8.5% of students have requested an exemption, and 5.2% have not informed the school of their vaccination status or exemption request. Management on campus leads is the highest group in vaccination rates with 95% vaccinated.
“We will continue to send notices to faculty as students become compliant. We will also be sending notices to faculty for anyone who has been out for a period of time,” said Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students Dr. Kevin Koett. “We certainly know the process isn’t perfect, but we are trying to enhance it and to make it the best we can.”
Students who have not submitted proof of full vaccination or requested a medical or religious exemption by Oct. 7 may face repercussions from the university.
“Vaccines are the most important piece to getting us out of this, quite frankly,” said Dean and Professor of Medicine at Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Dr. Annette C. Reboli. “Masks, testing, hand hygiene, distancing: all of these factors come together to make for a safer environment. I don’t say an entirely safe environment, but a much safer environment that allows us to resume some semblance of normal function within the context of the pandemic.”
While it appears administrators do not want to — and do not feel the need to — place classes back online, if the transmission rates on campus become too overwhelming, that is a possible scenario that all of the Rowan community should be prepared for. If there is a need for such a decision, it will be dependent on all the data from the Rowan community and surrounding area, and it will be discussed heavily beforehand.
The University plans on bringing COVID-19 vaccines to campus, as well as hosting opportunities to get the annual flu vaccine. Once COVID-19 boosters earn FDA approval, students and staff could see those added to the array of vaccines offered on campus. Any student who wishes to become vaccinated may do so through one of the university’s events or reach out to the Wellness Center to receive more information on vaccination opportunities nearby.
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