FAIRFIELD — Sacred Heart University officials indicated the school could suspend in-person classes if the rate of new coronavirus infections continues to climb.
Freshmen arrive on the campus of Sacred Heart University, in Fairfield, Conn. Aug. 25, 2020.
“The numbers speak for themselves,” President John Petillo said in a video message to the university community Monday.
Petillo said the school could not continue to operate “business as usual,” noting some students have opted to learn remotely, while some parents are calling for the university to suspend in-person classes.
Data from the university’s public dashboard Tuesday afternoon showed 15 new cases of COVID-19 reported in the last 24 hours.
The university reported 114 active cases as of Monday, the most recent testing data available. Of those, 92 are among students living off campus, 22 are among students living on campus.
Petillo said the school has heard reports of gatherings happening on- and off-campus.
Fairfield Police spokesman Lt. Antonio Granata said the department has not received any reports of off-campus parties in the past several weeks.
Petillo said the school has learned of gatherings through its “silent witness” program, which collects anonymous complaints regarding safety or security concerns. The program pre-dates the COVID-19 pandemic.
Students at Fairfield and Sacred Heart universities face a 30-day suspension if they are caught holding a large gathering and expulsion if caught a second time.
Petillo urged students to avoid contact with anyone outside of their roommates.
“I know these requests may seem unusually harsh, but again, we are at a real point of decision about the future of the semester on ground,” he said. “We need to turn the tide and get the spread of the virus under control.”
Late Monday, SHU officials said two new cases had emerged at Toussaint, a residence hall, marking the fourth dorm to have active cases.
More than a dozen of the active cases are at Merton Hall. The university has ordered students living there to quarantine and only leave their rooms to use their assigned restroom, after a student’s positive test was mislabeled by the lab.
“We still need more data before we can make a final decision on the quarantine in Merton. We hope to be able to do that very soon,” SHU officials said Monday in a message to the community.
To give residents of the hall time outside, the school said it would allow them to eat their meals on blankets on a nearby hill with their roommates for up to one hour.
On Tuesday, Fairfield University reported 17 new cases, all among students, within the last five days. (The school updates its COVID-19 dashboard twice a week on Tuesdays and Fridays).
Fairfield has reported 60 cases since the start of September, the school’s data shows.
In response, the school said last week it would be restricting guests at dorms to only students living in the same housing community, and moving to “grab and go” dining. The school also placed restrictions on two recreation facilities and said it would be enforcing masks and hand-washing.