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York College implements 'fall break' in an effort to mitigate spread of COVID-19

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch
Students walk on the York College campus Friday, Jan. 3, 2020. Bill Kalina photo

York College is implementing an on-campus "fall break" in an effort to reduce the number of students gathering and to mitigate the spread of COVID-19, officials announced Wednesday. 

In a letter addressed to students, President Pamela Gunter-Smith said the fall break will begin Thursday and run through Oct. 15 — but may be extended if "deemed necessary."

"First, I want to assure you that currently there is no cause for immediate alarm," the letter reads. "However, our campus has observed a recent small uptick in individuals who have been identified as close contacts of several COVID-19 positive students."

Since Aug. 24, 20 students and six faculty members have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data published by York College.

Although numbers are "relatively low," Gunter-Smith said she will take the steps to ensure that students will finish the semester on campus.

As part of the fall break, all students who reside in dorm rooms should remain on campus unless they are leaving for jobs, clinicals or to get groceries and other necessities, according to the letter.

If students travel out of York County, they must quarantine for 14 days before returning to campus.

"We have consulted with health experts to determine the best course of action, and we are aware that other institutions have put such a 'break' in place to mitigate the spread of COVID with success," said Mary Dolheimer, a spokesperson for York College.

Dolheimer added that by restricting student movement outside of academics, it will allow for those currently infected to quarantine and avoid exposing the rest of the campus community.

The following is a complete list of all changes to the current living and learning activities at York College as of Thursday: 

Academics 

  • All students will continue with hyflex learning in classrooms. (Those who have received accommodations to learn remotely will continue in that way.) 
  • Commuters and off-campus students will be permitted to enter campus only for classes and  academic requirements.  
  • Students will continue to participate in experiential education opportunities such as clinicals,  labs, internships, etc.  
  • Schmidt Library will remain open with lower density seating.  

Residence   

  • No visitors (students or guests) will be permitted in residence halls. Students must restrict their movement from residence hall to residence hall. They should interact only with others on their residence hall floor.  

Dining services 

  • Meals will be picked up as carry-out. There will be no eating in campus dining facilities or in other  areas without social distancing.  
  • Should you choose to eat outside, you must maintain the appropriate social distance at all times  and replace your face covering immediately after eating.  
  • Retail dining locations like Spart’s Den will have reduced hours. 

Athletics and recreation/student activities 

  • No practices or conditioning sessions will be scheduled for student-athletes. 
  • The Grumbacher Center will remain open but only for students (no YCP employees). 
  • No in-person meetings will be permitted for student clubs and organizations. All meetings will be virtual. 

Student behavior 

  • Students who host or participate in unauthorized gatherings that violate York College policies or the Student Code of Conduct will face a student conduct referral that could result in suspension from campus or the college.  

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto.