By Erica Rachel Sultan, News Editor
On November 5, Yeshiva University undergraduate students received an email from Dr. Chaim Nissel, vice provost of Student Affairs, in regards to the new COVID-19 testing protocols. Stated in the email, starting the week of November 9, saliva PCR testing will only be offered to undergraduate students once a week, as opposed to the previous twice a week testing, as there has yet to have been any positive COVID-19 tests since students have returned to campus. The twice-weekly protocol will remain in place for undergraduate student athletes.
However, on November 13, all undergraduate Yeshiva University students received an email from Rabbi Dr. Ari Berman, the president of Yeshiva University, stating that the campuses will continue with COVID-19 testing twice a week until Thanksgiving. After the holiday, the matter will be revisited. This comes after a surge of COVID-19 cases in the New York/New Jersey area, and after a faculty member on the Wilf Campus has tested positive for COVID-19. While the faculty member and his family must quarantine, a YU Spokesperson has stated that there is no cause to believe that anyone else on the YU campuses needs to quarantine or isolate.
Undergraduate students are able to get tested at both the Wilf and Beren Campuses. Wilf COVID testing is on Mondays and Wednesdays from 12-3 p.m. and 5-8 p.m. Beren COVID testing is on Mondays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m-1 p.m. and 2-5 p.m. However, as these times are subject to change, one should click on the sign up links to check for updated times. Dr. Chaim Nissel, vice provosts of Student Affairs, shared with the YU Observer that YU is following up with students “to remind them of their testing obligation,” and that, “[t]hose who are not compliant will not be allowed on our campuses.”
Student responses seem to differ on this new update. Elisheva Batagower (SCW ‘21), who attends in-person classes, has stated, “I think getting tested two times a week was not only nerve-racking for students, but also time consuming. While COVID testing is important, it is not necessarily a preemptive measure. And testing only once a week will allow students more time for their studies.” Mili Chizhik (SCW ‘22), who is currently attending virtual classes, has stated, “I think that generally, it’s important to enforce preemptive measures, such as social distancing and mask wearing. I think testing twice a week could potentially waste valuable resources and the time of many people.” In opposing view, a Yeshiva University student, whom wishes to remain anonymous has stated, “I think that YU is doing the responsible thing by having students tested twice a week. With the recent rise in cases in NYC, it is crucial that the university continues its testing and contact tracing programs. Measures like these will help keep both students and staff safe.”
Due to New York State traveling guidelines, “[students] may not come to campus if [they] have not satisfied the quarantine requirements. This also means that students in our housing program will not be permitted to quarantine (following travel) in their rooms, but must find alternate quarantine accommodations off-campus,” continued the November 5 email. Students are being encouraged to stay on campus for Shabbat (Sabbath), and the administration is also working on organizing a Thanksgiving plan for students on campus. Keeping to social distancing rules, filling out screening forms prior to entering any Yeshiva University buildings, wearing masks, partaking in daily temperature checks, and abiding to the Code Of Behavior guidelines are all still in effect.
In response to the YU Observer’s request for additional information regarding YU’s COVID-19 protocol, a YU Spokesperson has stated: “When we are informed that someone on our campuses tests positive (whether through our COVID-19 Monitoring Program or through an off-campus test), we consult our Medical Director on next steps and have our trained staff conduct contact tracing. This includes reaching out to any close contacts on our campuses and advising them to quarantine, or to get tested if appropriate. We understand that last [s]pring we communicated about positive cases more widely, but we are now proceeding in a way that complies with current best practices. Like other universities, we do not send out mass emails about all positive cases on our campuses but instead reach out only to close contacts. We also report positive cases to the NYS Department of Health (DOH) in accordance with the requirements for the public dashboard. This is the most effective way to proceed; it helps protect the health of our campuses as well as ensure the privacy of our community members.”
On the Dashboard, a site run by the New York Department of Health in which students are able to see a daily updated report of COVID-19 cases their campus has, a YU spokesperson has stated: “The DOH continues to refine its Dashboard and so it has changed over the last month. Beginning on November 7th, the DOH separated Yeshiva into three schools: Wilf/Beren, Cardozo and Ferkauf, plus RIETS. As a result, the Dashboard labeled YESHIVA UNIVERSITY is no longer updated and new cases are now reported under these four schools. Since the beginning of our Dashboard reporting, we have reported a total of 3 positive cases on our campuses and have conducted 2,239 tests on our campuses as part of our Monitoring Program. But because the reporting structure has changed, the numbers appear in different places.”
In order to find the updated Yeshiva University COVID-19 information on the Dashboard, click on “Higher Education Institutions,” which will lead you to type in the search bar “Yeshiva,” not Yeshiva University as was done prior to the update. You will see a dropdown window which will give you four options: Brookdale Center, Wilf Campus and Beren Campus, and Ferkauf Graduate School of Psychology, and Yeshiva University. Once you’ve clicked on the desired campus, you will be able to select a date range in which will show you any positive COVID cases which have been on the campus and new ones that have occurred during the date-range selected.
A student who tested COVID-19 positive should email their results to firstname.lastname@example.org as it can impact their participation in the testing program.
For further questions, email CovidMonitor@yu.edu.