After a week of low COVID-19 numbers, the college works to continue a positive trend

By Abra Richardson, Staff Reporter

File Photo

Coming into the semester with questions surrounding how classes would be held, vaccination and testing requirements, as well as residence hall guest policies, students had to decipher a flurry of emails regarding COVID-19 requirements and precautions.

As Columbia neared the end of the first week of the semester, administrators reminded the campus community of the importance of continuing to follow these policies.

As of Thursday, Jan. 27, the college’s COVID-19 Case Updates page is showing just five active cases of COVID-19 on campus.

Hoping to continue to keep case numbers low, Derek Brinkley, assistant vice president of Undergraduate Admissions, offered the following key reminders the campus community should keep in mind to keep everyone safe.

1. Test up to three days in advance in order to enter Columbia buildings.

Everyone has to present a negative COVID-19 test no older than three days before returning to campus for the spring semester. After that first test is uploaded, and the student has entered a Columbia building, there is no need to test again.

COVID-19 tests are available for free on campus, but testing at off-campus providers is also an option. Vaccinated students can also choose to upload results of an at-home test instead.

If students, staff and faculty are eligible for a booster, proof of vaccination must be uploaded to MedProctor. Every upload is checked by an actual person, and there will be no penalty if someone has yet to receive a booster, but the college will require weekly testing until the booster is obtained. The only exceptions for booster requirements are for people who have a medical or religious exemption, and they are also required to continuously test.

2. As of right now, no guests are allowed in residence halls.

Brinkley said Columbia is working to lift this temporary ban, but no outside guests are allowed in the residence halls at this time. He said Residence Life announced the policy for safety reasons and for the ability to assess the community as a whole, making sure students test negative and upload vaccination requirements.

Residence Life will be the first to release any updates regarding changes to guest policies.

3. Brinkley said it’s important to be open-minded about the opportunities the semester may present despite the influx of COVID-19 cases in Chicago.

“I want to encourage students to be as flexible as possible as we go into this spring semester,” Brinkley said. “It would be helpful for everyone involved if we all can approach this new spring semester, especially the first couple of weeks of this spring semester, with a little bit of grace, with a little bit of flexibility.”

He said there are reasons Columbia has put policies in place, and it’s important to understand that these safety measures are made so everyone can get back on campus. The policies will allow more clubs and activities to be active on campus again.

Keeping an open mind and adapting to the circumstances will benefit everyone as the school works to create a freeing environment like it was prior to the pandemic, Brinkley said.

Updates for clubs and activities starting up again can be found at the Columbia Engage website.

4. Brinkley said because the pandemic has been a struggle and has caused so much anxiety, it’s important to know that counseling services are available on campus.

“I understand that this time is not fun; I understand that the pandemic has been really stressful for a lot of us as we try to navigate this,” Brinkley said.

Another resource for students is the Student Relations office. The office is designed to make sure students have a successful experience while at Columbia, and the staff is available and ready to help students navigate their way through their college years.

“Make sure you’re taking the time for self-care,” Brinkley said.