‘So far everything has worked out smoothly’: Students say of COVID-19 college move in

Williamsburg

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — On move-in day at the campus of William & Mary, students tried to keep things close to normal, in a situation that in so many ways isn’t.

Dressed in highlighter yellow T-shirts and matching face coverings, upperclassmen of the school offered socially-distanced waves, cheers, and, at times, dance moves as incoming freshmen arrived with their parents to move into a place that was drastically different than it was just five months earlier.

For starters, every student had to have a negative COVID-19 test before arriving on campus. As part of their welcome gift, they received a wellness kit complete with two reusable cloth masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning wipes.

Masks are required across campus, even outdoors when 6 feet of distance can’t be maintained and signs and arrows mark assigned entry and exit points.

For move-in, students had to make an appointment that was spread across three days. No more than two people could help a student up to a room.

“Part of me was a little bit skeptical but so far everything has worked out smoothly,” said Stavan Bhakta, 18, of St. Paul, Minnesota.

Bhakta made the more 1,000-mile drive to campus this week following a mandatory eight-day quarantine. The threat of becoming infected with COVID-19 is certainly on his mind.

“Obviously a little bit nervous but mostly excited,” Bhakta said. “Hopefully everything they put into place works.”

Students and staff were required to sign a “Healthy Together Community Commitment,” which outlines the expectations and shared responsibilities that must be complied with as part of the COVID-19 mitigation plan.

The Williamsburg City Council voted unanimously to join the entire city in on the commitment on Thursday.

“We are committed to make sure that the campus and community at large stay as safe as possible,” Sam Jones, director of the university’s COVID-19 Response Team, said to council.

As part of the commitment, students agree to be part of point-prevalence testing. Initially, samples from 5 percent of the student body and 2 percent of the employee/contractor population will occur at least every two weeks. 

Daily, students, faculty and staff, on and off-campus, will be required to take the Daily Health Check app’s four-question survey to monitor their health to “evaluate whether their daily behaviors reflect their commitment to the community’s health.”

The app will also include real-time information about current occupancy of campus spaces, including dining halls and Swem Library. So, if a place is becoming to crowded, action can be taken.

Students seeing symptoms will must make an appointment with the health center where they can get a COVID-19 test. If they live on campus and come back positive, they will move to the Richmond Hall dormitory for isolation. University contact-tracers could direct others to quarantine.

Jones said because students signed the commitment, enforcement will be strict.

“If it turns out that there is a student — and this is on campus or off — who just will not comply. Then they don’t belong at William & Mary,” Jones said.

Jones said the school is working in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Health and won’t rule out closing campus if a large outbreak occurs. He hopes things don’t come to that.

“We will continue to monitor constantly the trends of what is going on and react to that as we need to,” Jones said.

Classes begin virtually on Aug. 19, with in-person beginning after Labor Day.


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