By Rebecca Aduculesi, News Editor
In an email sent out to the student body on September 23, 2021, students were informed that mandatory bi-weekly on-campus COVID-19 testing will resume. Just as they were required upon returning to campus for the start of the semester, students were informed that they must submit a negative COVID-19 test before returning to campus from the High Holiday break.
Prior to this update, students were not required to get COVID-19 tested on campus. Students were required to submit a negative PCR test taken a maximum of five days before returning to campus for the fall semester, but once it was submitted, no further testing was required. In addition, in the beginning of the fall semester masks were not required in any campus building. However, on August 30, five days after the semester started, a “temporary” mask mandate was instituted for all students in academic buildings, regardless of vaccination status.
While the email sent to students does not specifically address YU’s mask policy, the email did state, “We understand that testing requirements and mask wearing can be challenging, but we are putting these protocols in place to ensure that we all can learn in person together and have a healthy and successful year.” This implies that the “temporary” mask mandate may still be in effect.
The email stated that “all students (even if [they] are fully vaccinated) are expected to upload proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken in the prior 5 days or a copy of their positive test from 10-90 days ago.” However, the University will allow a rapid antigen test to be submitted due to the timing of the holidays. In addition, the email clarified that students who have been on campus over Sukkot must also submit a negative test.
The email also included that “starting Monday, October 4th, the COVID-19 Monitoring Program will resume twice weekly (Mondays and Thursdays) on-campus testing for the next few weeks, after which we will look at the infection rates and determine the testing frequency in conjunction with our Medical Director and applicable guidelines and best practices.” Students were informed that “testing on October 4th will take place from 10am-3pm in Yagoda Commons (215 Lexington) & 12pm-5pm in Weissberg Commons (Belfer Hall).”
Students were warned that “if [they] don’t test with YU on Monday, October 4th, [they] will be temporarily unable to access campus or the dormitories until [YU] receive[s] a negative PCR result.” In addition, students will be unable to enter any campus building or dormitory if they miss any YU COVID-19 test, unless they submit a negative PCR test. The email specified, saying, “Should your ID be turned off, you will need to submit a negative PCR result (not rapid antigen) taken at an off-campus facility. You will not be able to satisfy this requirement by testing at our monitoring program site, because you will not be permitted into campus buildings.” In the email, students were told that they should not come to class if they are not feeling well, and if they test positive they should notify the COVID-19 monitoring team who will assist them with isolation and quarantine.
Students shared their feelings about these measures. An anonymous student (SCW ‘23) told the YU Observer, “Although I understand that the need to keep the safety of staff, administration, students, and many more members of campus is a key element to ensuring a successful semester, I believe that having both protocols in place is a lot. If one were to test twice a week, then I feel that wearing a mask should not be needed since they will know whether or not they are carrying the disease around.”
Additionally, Atara Bachrach (SCW ‘23) revealed to the YU Observer, “After starting out with the hope of a semi-normal semester, I think a lot of us just feel really disillusioned. Especially with the mask mandate having been implemented so early on in the year, reverting all the way back to the way things were last semester is not only a physical challenge, but an emotional one as well.”