Fall 2020 Reopening Updates Announced, Updates Include Delayed Campus Reopening And Frequent COVID-19 Testing

By: Fruma Landa  |  October 1, 2020

By Fruma Landa, Editor in Chief

*This article has been corrected to reflect that Greenberg submitted a quote on behalf of the Wilf  Campus student council presidents, not the Wilf Campus student council.

President Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman announced campus reopening updates for the Fall 2020 semester. The updated plan, sent via email on October 1, notified students that “ongoing saliva PCR” tests are now part of the protocol for anyone wishing to gain campus entry in addition to the previously announced temperature checks. This decision was made under the “guidance of” Dr. Robert van Amerongen, a recently hired medical director. Berman assured that “This additional measure will enable us to be better positioned to respond more immediately to any positive COVID-19 cases, triggering our contact tracing and quarantining protocols.”

Berman also informed that the start date for undergraduate in-person classes and campus housing has been pushed off from October 12 (residence halls reopening) and October 19 (start of in-person classes) to October 21 to allow time for post High Holiday testing. Students who plan on being on campus, non-housing residents included, are “required to take a PCR Nasal Swab COVID-19 test … no earlier than Thursday, October 15, even if they have antibodies.” Berman assured that deans and academic advisors in partnership with faculty are working to support students who may be moving into the dorms during midterms season. 

Zachary Greenberg, YSU president, shared on behalf of the Wilf Campus student council presidents that they “sent nearly 50 questions over to the administration and [they] will continue to do so to help the university clear up the intricacies of day-to-day life on campus which students need to know about.” 

Students traveling internationally or from restricted states on the NY travel advisory list who have plans on quarantining in YU’s “quarantine hotel” do not need to change their plans. These students will fulfill their 14 day required quarantine in hotel rooms arranged by YU and do not need a COVID-19 test before quarantining as they “will be tested during their hotel stay” and move into the dorms when their quarantine is complete. Berman further explained that Student Life, Housing teams, faculty, staff, rabbis and the medical director “have planned a full program, including shiurim [lectures], mental health support, wellness and fitness programs, daily check-ins, pre-Shabbat [Sabbath] programs and virtual events to support students throughout.” 

Chemda Wiener, a Beren Campus Resident Advisor (RA), expressed to the YU Observer that she believes that YU is “doing what is necessary to make sure that they can actually open and make sure they can open safely.”

The email outlines that Batei Midrash (spaces of Torah study), and the athletic center, will be open for student use and that there will be Shabbat programming on campus, including Thanksgiving weekend and Shabbat Chanukah. Events will be held throughout the semester virtually and in-person. 

While Berman encourages students to stay “on campus throughout the entire semester, on Shabbat and during the week,” Natan Pittinsky, YC ‘21, points out that he is “concerned that they didn’t make any policies or attempts to address the main risk for YU — in the likely high levels of unmasked contact between students and their family members in local Jewish communities, which will no doubt occur every weekend for some individuals”

Greenberg expressed his thoughts on the updated reopening plan to the YU Observer. “ … I think it’s important for us as YU students to stick together, be as active as possible, whether on campus or virtual, and continue to grow academically, socially, and spiritually. Now more than ever it’s imperative for us to keep in touch with one another and not let any student feel alone. I’m so happy campus is opening back up and look forward to seeing many of you in the coming weeks in person.”

As per the announcement, an updated FAQ list will be posted here and a call will be hosted “for students.”