BY JAIMIE JULIA WINTERS
Montclair State University is readying to welcome back students this fall, after Gov. Phil Murphy announced today, June 17, plans to reopen New Jersey’s colleges and universities as early as July 1.
In-person labs and other hands-on only programming at colleges will be allowed to resume on July 1. When in-person classes can resume has not yet been set.
The 20-page full guideline report directing colleges on how to resume operations in phases will be issued later today.
Each university will have to submit to the state health department a plan for reopening 14 days prior to opening their gates.
Montclair State University officials said today that an advisory committee has formed and is working on a plan to bring students and employees back to campus as safely as possible.
“We will review that plan in light of the forthcoming guidance from OSHE and finalize it as soon as possible,” said Andrew Mees, the university’s senior media relations specialist.
Montclair’s first COVID-19 positive case was a Montclair State University employee who tested positive on March 12.
As concerns for public health continue, state secretary of higher education Zakiya Smith Ellis said colleges will look very different compared to what students experienced before they shut down in March. Classes will most likely be hybrids of in-class and online learning as social distancing will remain in effect. Face masks will be required for indoor settings and recommended for outdoor settings. With limited dorms opening, students will not be required to live on campus. No information was provided on roommate situations. All common areas will remain closed for now, Ellis said.
Two keys to opening back up will be a robust testing and a contact tracing program implemented by each university. Quarantine and isolation accommodations for students with positive diagnoses will need to be developed.
Orientation will now include COVID-19 instruction on safety guidelines.
Upgrades to disinfecting and sanitizing will also have to be implemented. Cafeterias will no longer have buffets and students will have to eat six feet apart, Ellis said.
More guidance on athletics, instruction, dining, transportation, and shared spaces such as computer labs, libraries and science labs, will be released this week.
At Montclair State University, while summer session classes will remain online only, the university will start the fall semester a week early and end a week early. Students and faculty will not return to campus after Thanksgiving break. All remaining coursework, assignments and exams will be completed remotely, “in order to decrease the population density on campus at the time of year when respiratory viruses, including the coronavirus, typically become more active.”
Move-in dates will be announced in the near future. Move-in will take place over an extended period to allow for safe distancing.
Today, New Jersey health officials reported an increase in the number of people in hospitals last night at 1,352, compared to 1,291 the day prior. New hospitalizations also increased to 64 last night, compared to Monday when 33 entered.
As of yesterday, overall hospitalizations were down by 43 percent since June 2 and new hospitalizations were down by 23 percent.
New COVID-19 positive cases however were down to 330 today, from the 470 reported yesterday. Deaths were also down from 52 new deaths reported yesterday to 47 reported today.
State totals are now at 167,703 positive cases and 12,769 deaths. Of those numbers, 35,437 cases and 6,079 have been reported among long-term care residents.
Health officials reported an increase in the positivity rate of testing from 2.69 percent yesterday to 3.5 percent today. The rate of transmission of the virus is decreasing, at 0.07 today from yesterday’s 0.69.
Fewer people were in the ICU last night at 358, but more were on ventilators at 254. On Monday, 362 patients were in critical care, with 245 ventilators in use. More people were discharged last night (92), compared to the 55 patients on Monday.
Cases of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children and teens have increased for the second day in row, bringing the total number of cases to 43. No deaths have been reported from the condition.
Wednesday morning, Essex County health officials reported 60 new positive cases, a slight uptick from the 59 reported yesterday, bringing the county total to 18,437 cases. Deaths also saw a rise of 12 compared to yesterday, when the county reported five fewer deaths due to resident recording issues. The death toll now stands at 1,754.
Today, June 17, Montclair Health Department officials reported for the third day in a row a new case of COVID within the township now at 433; the number of individuals who did not survive the illness remains at 50. After a four-day stretch of no new confirmed cases, Montclair saw a new case each of the past three days.