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Concern rises on campus as clusters and uncertainty continue to grow

Coronavirus cases have continued to rise within the University community, with the Seton Hall reporting one additional case on Wednesday for a total of 35 cases in October alone, at least 15 of which were said to be either “related” or detected through contact tracing. 

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Seton Hall placed signage on campus this semester explaining COVID-19 procedures, but in October cases began rising as a result of two clusters. (Nicholas Kerr / Editor-in-Chief)

The rise comes as the University confirmed two clusters of the virus on Sunday, one from Greek life and one from athletics, which spread the virus among members of the University’s student body. 

So far, the Seton Hall has not said just how many cases are associated with each cluster, but in a statement provided to The Setonian on Wednesday by University spokeswoman Laurie Pine confirmed that a “majority” of the recent cases were connected to the clusters, adding that the University “believes that most of the cases are isolated to these clusters and not indicative of a greater community spread.”

Pine said that health privacy laws prohibited the University from providing any additional information about the clusters.

So far, Seton Hall has indicated that it does not believe the current outbreak would warrant a pivot to remote learning at this juncture but warned on Sunday that “additional clusters may well require such action.” 

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The increase has not been exclusive to Seton Hall, with a surge in cases being reported both statewide and across the country. South Orange has reported a total of 164 cases since the start of the pandemic, while cases in New Jersey topped 232,000 confirmed positive tests, according to the University’s coronavirus dashboard.

Victoria Reich, a sophomore elementary education major, said she was surprised by the outbreak because she lives on campus and it seemed like students had been following the rules. 

“I honestly am a little bit surprised because I feel like everyone was following the rules so far,” Reich said. “It’s just a little surprising that an outbreak came all of a sudden from similar groups.”

Sara Barrientos, a sophomore marketing major, said she was not surprised by the rise in COVID-19 cases on campus. 

“Honestly even with the amount of precautions that the schools had been taking, I’m not completely surprised,” Barrientos said. “We are college students, and you can’t really be in charge of everybody individually. So there’s going to end up being people that don’t completely follow the rules.” 

Stevinh Trinh, a senior occupational therapy major, also said he expected the rise.

“I wouldn’t say I was surprised,” Trinh said. “We are a university and we did open up to the public for people to come back to the school knowing that there would be a possible second wave which everyone predicted.”

Reich said she still feels safe on campus despite the increase in COVID-19 cases. 

“I think I still definitely feel safe on campus because the people who are following the rules are following them very closely,” Reich said. 

“I still feel safe on campus because I know where I’ve been and I know what I’m doing,” Barrientos said. 

“As long as I stay safe I can kind of minimize my exposure to it. So I personally still feel safe.”

However, many students said they are concerned about the recent increase in COVID-19 cases. 

“It’s alarming to see the cases on campus rising at such a quick rate,” Shanice Bedford, a sophomore biomedical engineering major. “I’m curious to know SHU’s resolution and plans moving forward.” 

Julia Lomonte, a sophomore creative writing major, said she opted to do fully online learning this semester, but is planning to come back to campus in the spring. She said the recent increase in COVID-19 cases has not affected her decision to come back to campus in the spring.

“It definitely has had an impact on me, but so far my decision hasn’t changed,” Lomonte said. “I plan to go back in the spring, and I haven’t changed my mind yet however the recent increase is extremely concerning.”

Lomonte also talked about how the increase in cases is especially concerning since the spring semester will start during a time when a lot of people get sick. 

“The outbreak now is also really scary since the spring semester starts during a high time for illness,” Lomonte said. “If the outbreak is happening now it is very scary to think about what the number of cases will look like in colder months.” 

Eve Krupcheck can be reached at genevieve.krupcheck@student.shu.edu.

Nicholas Kerr contributed reporting.

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