With the Thanksgiving holiday approaching, college students across the state have struggled to find a sense of normalcy under the strict coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic guidelines that their schools and the state have implemented.
While state government officials have come up with a list of guidelines for how to celebrate it safely, not everyone is adhering to this instruction.
The guidelines include wearing masks, social distancing and keeping indoor gatherings limited to a maximum of 10 people.
At school, there really is no choice but to adhere to the guidelines put in place. Students at Bergen Community College (BCC) in Paramus, for example, are not allowed to enter the main building until mere minutes before their classes begin, and they are asked a series of questions by security guards, similar to Hawk Check at Montclair State University.
Emanuele Calianno, a sophomore liberal arts major at BCC, explains the process.
“They want you to wait outside before class starts, even if you have a 15-minute break in between classes,” Calianno said.
Many students take the bus to campus, so now they are forced to wait outside even in the imminent cold winter months. According to Calianno, since they cannot sit on the benches right outside the building to wait, they have resorted to bringing lawn chairs.
According to the BCC website, while the college may not screen students for COVID-19, they encourage students to complete a health questionnaire on CampusClear, an app that can be downloaded on smartphones that helps track symptoms of the virus.
At Seton Hall University in South Orange, Manuel Azevedo, a sophomore business major at the university, said things are similar but slightly different.
“This semester, to prevent [COVID-19] cases, [Seton Hall] was having a rotating schedule,” Azevedo said. “We’re allowed to come into the class in halves, so half the class goes in one day and the other half on another day.”
Like BCC, Seton Hall students use CampusClear to track daily symptoms. According to Azevedo, “it helps the school know that you are COVID-free.”
Seton Hall’s website offers COVID-19 testing and telehealth services for students experiencing symptoms or if they believe they have been exposed to the virus.
At Fairleigh Dickinson University (FDU) in Teaneck, students who live on campus are subjected to random weekly testing, according to Milena Izquierdo, a freshman education major at FDU.
“Basically, they choose 20 random students each week, from the ones who live on campus,” Izquierdo said. “For commuters, they don’t ever make them get tested, but if they find out they are positive, they still have to report it to the school.”
Like Seton Hall, students at FDU are able to access telehealth services as part of their student health insurance plans.
At Montclair State, it is mandatory for students who dorm to get tested for COVID-19. The university also recently mandated that students are not allowed to leave campus without special permission to prevent the virus from spreading. Adriana Josifoska, a senior biology major at Montclair State, was required to fill out a waiver before leaving campus.
“I had to fill out a waiver to leave campus for work,” Josifoska said. “They approved it since I had to follow certain guidelines.”
As a result of Montclair State’s mandate, residential students have complained about not being allowed off-campus. Since many of the eateries on campus have closed, students have to venture out to buy basic necessities, such as groceries and toiletries.
With Thanksgiving coming this week, Montclair State students such as Josifoska have expressed dismay at not being able to celebrate with all their loved ones.
“Normally, my family does a big Thanksgiving, but this year there’s no way for that,” Josifoska said.
Azevedo from Seton Hall said, “my family, especially my grandparents, have quarantined for the most part, so [COVID-19] isn’t a really big worry for Thanksgiving.”
Izquierdo, on the other hand, is waiting for her COVID-19 test to come back “negative” so she can spend the holiday with her family.
“I plan on seeing my whole family on Thanksgiving,” Izquierdo said.
Montclair State, as well as other local universities, are following similar guidelines in order to help students stay safe during the Thanksgiving holiday.