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Campus adapts to the pandemic

Campus adapts to the pandemic

Michelle Tedford October 08, 2020

Classes start online, move to in-person.

When the students grabbed their backpacks and headed to their classrooms, there was one giveaway fall 2020 was different: mandatory face coverings, many of them blue with a white Flyer “D” that were distributed during move-in. A second was that it was Sept. 16, 24 days into the academic year.

Students started the semester on time with undergraduate students learning remotely after testing and contact tracing identified clusters of students who had become infected with the novel coronavirus.

Between Aug. 25 and Sept. 5, the University recorded its highest positivity rates on tests conducted on campus and through a partnership with Premier Health. Officials said results indicated that aggressive testing was targeting the necessary populations.

Testing was central to the University’s plan to welcome students back to campus in the fall. Students submitted negative tests before moving onto campus. UD offered testing for those who developed symptoms or were close contacts and instituted surveillance testing to identify asymptomatic students. The University provided housing and other services for students needing to quarantine or isolate and who could not go home. Emails and signage reminded students of best practices to stem spread of the virus.

“We have seen so many positive signs of students following safety protocols in recent days. ... We all know this is key to our future on campus,” President Eric F. Spina told students in a video that urged them to continue to follow safety protocols, which also include physical distancing, sanitizing procedures and measures to protect the larger community, such as students staying on campus and no visitors being allowed on campus.

The campus status — a five-level, color-coded system to inform campus of both COVID-19 transmission and steps to stem the spread — went as high as No. 4, “warning,” before returning to No. 2, “localized,” which allowed all in-person and hybrid courses to return to the classroom by the third week of September.

“We really did turn a difficult situation around,” Spina told campus, acknowledging the challenges of learning and living where close interaction is highly valued. “I believe that when we put our minds to it as a community, we can tackle anything and everything.”

The plan the University set for the fall, known as The Path Forward, includes continued consultation with Public Health - Dayton & Montgomery County and a medical advisory panel of local physicians and health experts. Campus protocols were funded in part by federal and state money provided by the CARES Act, and costs were not passed on to students.

Despite the uncertainty created by the pandemic, UD saw a record entering class this fall that exceeded expectations in size, socioeconomic diversity and underrepresented populations. Student appeals for financial aid increased — 300% over last year — and were met in part through CARES Act money, University funds and donor-funded scholarships, which for the fiscal year that ended in July provided students with $4.4 million.

UD continues measures to help maintain the health of the campus community, including making flu shots available for students, faculty and staff.

“We are so thankful that you have taken this challenge seriously,” Spina wrote to students Sept. 21, reminding them to stay vigilant. “You have demonstrated that Flyers not only enjoy living in community but are also willing to sacrifice and fight for the health and safety of everyone in the UD and greater Dayton community.”

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