The Battle with COVID-19 Continues


TORCH PHOTO/ Rachel Johnson

Do you know how many COVID-19 positive cases are on the St. John’s University campuses? This semester you can find out every Monday night by checking the COVID-19 Dashboard on the University website

This week’s update reported 20 positive cases, current as of Jan. 31. That number includes 14 students, 5 employees from the Queens campus and 1 student from the Staten Island campus. 

The number of positives dropped significantly from a week earlier when the University reported 85 cases on the dashboard Monday, Jan. 24.

Some students expressed disbelief over the relatively low number of cases last week, considering how just weeks ago the highly contagious Omicron variant was wreaking havoc across New York City. 

“85! No way, there has to be more than that,” said Ignacio Prieto Ruiz De Ojeda, a junior Business Analytics major and commuter.

To combat the Omicron variant, the University joined a host of other schools nationwide by implementing a booster requirement for the Spring 2022 semester. All students and employees were required to get a booster before January 19, 2022 — or to do so as soon as they are eligible, according to a University-wide email sent on Jan. 3rd. The University also advised that students should wear a mask while indoors, avoid large unmasked gatherings and wash their hands frequently. For employees working in an open setting, masks must be worn at all times throughout the day. 

As the University community nears the start of its third year dealing with life on a pandemic, fatigue is setting in. 

“I feel like the situation at St. John’s has been stressful for both staff and students,” said Shamar Roberts, a senior Information Technology major and commuter. “It’s something that we still don’t really know how to deal with. As a senior who’s been here before COVID-19 started, my time here has changed drastically and school life just isn’t what it used to be.” 

The University’s isolation guidelines this semester have been revised to follow Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and NYS guidelines. In the St. John’s community, people who test positive for COVID-19 (with a few exceptions) must be isolated for 5 days, where day 0 is the day of symptom onset or (if asymptomatic) the day of collection of the first positive specimen. If you are moderately or severely immunocompromised, you will need to be isolated for a full 10 days, according to the University website.

“Dedicated residence space for isolation and quarantine have been identified throughout the residence village that enables students to complete this requirement in a safe and comfortable environment,” said University Spokesperson Brian Browne.

The guest policy has been updated and restored to the policy and procedure that existed in the Fall 2021 semester. “Resident students may participate in daytime and overnight visitation between rooms and between buildings. This policy is in effect for resident students, and does not apply to guests that are commuter students or non-St. John’s guests at this time,” according to a University email obtained by The Torch. 

Some resident students are upset with the new policy. 

“Honestly I think it’s irresponsible,” said Sarah Flanigan, junior Biology major and a resident. “The circumstances haven’t changed much. They should’ve made it like only if you’re in the same building.” 

There is no threshold of cases this semester that would cause the in-person classes to be forced to go entirely online. 

“The current number of COVID-19 cases reported at St. John’s University is manageable and when compared to some neighboring communities in the borough and beyond, demonstrates the importance of the ongoing availability of testing, being vaccinated, boosted, and adhering to public health guidelines,” Browne said. 

“Throughout the semester and in collaboration with public health authorities, the University regularly assesses our COVID-19 protocols and will adjust as needed,” he added. “Having our employees and students fully vaccinated with the booster enables us to safely engage in learning activities, campus events, and student programs. We appreciate the University-wide cooperation and compliance that makes all this possible.”