BUFFALO, N.Y. — On Wednesday the University at Buffalo released guidelines about the safe return to class for students, professors and staff for the fall semester, which is scheduled to start in late August.
Last month the university released a plan to return to campus by offering a modified in-person format, designed to reduce the amount of people physically on campus. Under this plan, classrooms will be limited to 25% capacity and residence halls will also have a reduced number students.
Under the new guidelines released today, the school is asking all students, faculty and staff returning to campus to undergo a seven-day quarantine before the start of classes, as a precaution. People arriving from outside of New York State will have to follow the state's travel advisory, mandating a two week quarantine if they are coming from one of the 22 states listed in the advisory.
Face coverings, which will be provided by the school, will be mandatory inside and outside of campus buildings to minimize the spread of COVID-19. Students can also wear their own face mask as long as it meets criteria for a face covering.
In dining halls students will have to sit six feet apart and masks need to be worn whenever they aren't eating or drinking. Students living in dorms won't have to wear a mask when inside their room or while alone with their roommate.
“We want everyone to adopt a culture that minimizes risks of getting infected and maximizes our ability to keep UB open,” said Thomas A. Russo, MD, chief of the Division of Infectious Disease in the Department of Medicine, Jacobs School, and a member of the guidelines committee.“The cornerstone of our strategy is to prevent infections. Our first line of defense is the universal use of face coverings, physical distancing and hand hygiene. Until a safe and effective vaccine becomes available, we all need to rigorously use the strategies described in these guidelines and develop a culture designed to prevent cases."
All students, faculty and staff will be screened on a daily basis. Anybody exhibiting COVID-19 symptoms or has had contact with somebody who has been confirmed positive will be tested for the virus.
"The reality of this, we're still stuck in this difficult situation now for at least another six to nine months at best, and though it's an inconvenience, people don't like wearing masks at times, they feel that it bothers them, I think being able to be safe and doing at least some semblance of things like we like to do for getting a semblance of normality, it's the least we should be able to ask of anyone," says Dr. Russo.
The school is also following CDC requirements for cleaning and disinfecting all facilities. UB is currently in the process of inventorying HVAC systems on campus to see if they are in need of an update.
"If we really develop this culture of mask usage and physical distancing, which I am confident we will be able to do and get our students to buy into, we'll be just as safe going to classes at UB than you would be going out to any sort of activity such as Wegmans or elsewhere," says Dr. Russo.