Amid health and safety protocols, students quarantine before return to campus

Publication Date

Olivia Egan boarded an early-morning flight Monday that took her from her hometown of Napa, Calif., to Albany, N.Y. Wearing a mask, gloves and face shield, she climbed into an Uber for the 15-minute ride to campus following her cross-country flight.

A member of the Class of 2024, Egan begins her college journey in quarantine for two weeks at a local hotel, but she does not mind.

“I’m excited to get started,” she said. She plans to major in electrical engineering.

Egan is among the first wave of students who arrived this week for the fall semester. The 56 students include mostly international students and those traveling from states on New York’s travel advisory list who, because of the global pandemic, are required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival here.

Celeste Beaudoin ’24 has her temperature checked by registered nurse Joan Thompson in the COVID-19 testing site in Memorial Field House. 

Celeste Beaudoin ’24 has her temperature checked by registered nurse Joan Thompson in the COVID-19 testing site in Memorial Field House.

First, students reported directly to the COVID-19 testing site in Memorial Field House for mandatory testing. After having their temperature taken, they were escorted to one of several curtained observation rooms. There, health professionals from the Wicker Wellness Center collected a nasal swab and sealed it in a bag labeled “Biohazard.” The sample is sent to a lab in Cambridge, Mass., and results are usually available within 24 hours, said Angela Stefanatos, director of Health Services.

After picking up a COVID kit (which includes two masks, a digital thermometer and hand sanitizer) and other materials from Residential Life staffers in the Viniar Athletic Center, students began their quarantine. Most are staying at two area hotels; some are quarantined at College Park Hall. Students who do not comply with the quarantine will be referred to the Office of Community Standards for possible disciplinary action.

The isolation of quarantine can be challenging, but Celeste Beaudoin ’24 says she is prepared.

“I’m going to try and work out in my room and find the textbooks I need for classes so I can read ahead,” said Beaudoin, of Stouffville, Ontario. She is a forward on the women’s hockey team.

Union is supporting the students in quarantine in a number of ways. The College is working with food delivery company Grubhub to provide food from downtown restaurants. Student Activities is offering a number of virtual events, including trivia night, bingo and movie watch and discussions.

There is also a Quarantine Support Squad, a group of nearly 40 staffers ranging from Student Affairs and Admissions to Athletics and College Relations. Members are in contact regularly with the students to make sure they have what they need. Health Services monitor students, as well. There is also a daily open Zoom drop-in hour for students to stay connected.

“It can be lonely and isolating to be in quarantine,” said Fran’Cee Brown-McClure, vice president for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. “We want students to know that we are here for them and that we are thinking about them.”

While in quarantine, Egan is learning a new language, German, catching up on her reading and “watching more TV than anyone should.”

She looks forward to moving into Davidson House with her roommate when her quarantine ends. As the number of schools and universities who had planned to reopen reverse course and switch to remote learning because of a surge in COVID cases, she is confident Union will persevere.

“I’m impressed with Union’s effort to make sure we can be on campus,” she said.

Egan loves the outdoors and often goes hiking or on runs. The first thing she plans to do when she leaves the hotel?

“I’m going to set up my hammock in Jackson’s Garden and stay there all day,” she said.

Other students will be arriving on a rolling schedule between now and the first day of classes Sept. 9.