Rider coronavirus cases decline as vaccines become accessible

By Austin Ferguson 

As widespread accessibility to vaccines for COVID-19 is on the horizon, new cases of the coronavirus at Rider dropped off significantly, the university’s online dashboard reported on April 6.

According to Rider’s online COVID-19 dashboard, six new cases of COVID-19 were reported between March 29 and April 4, the first time the dashboard reported a single-digit weekly number of positives since the first week of March. In between those two weeks, the university reported three of its worst weeks of positive cases in the Spring 2021 semester with 19, 21 and 19 cases consecutively before the drop-off to six positives this past week.

A decrease in both student quarantine and isolation numbers coupled the sharp decline in COVID-19 cases, with the dashboard reporting 15 students in quarantine and seven students in isolation as of April 6. On-campus student numbers in both categories were especially notable, highlighted by the report of no students in isolation on campus as of April 6.

Though Rider Vice President for Strategic Initiatives and Planning and Secretary to the Board Debbie Stasolla was grateful for the decline in case numbers at the university, she stressed the importance of continuing to follow guidelines in keeping COVID-19 spread low on campus.

“It’s getting nicer out and it’s tempting to not to abide by our guidelines,” Stasolla said. “But I just can’t stress that enough that we need to all monitor our symptoms.”

In terms of following guidelines, violations in Rider’s Student Code of Social Conduct related to COVID-19 tailed off in the month of March, with university Director of Community Standards Keith Kemo reporting 10 violations of Rider’s code of conduct relating to COVID-19 guidelines that month, compared to 23 violations of the same codes in February. Kemo noted, however, that March’s number was subject to change as hearing officers bring in more students for conduct hearings.

The decreases in all tracked categories on Rider’s dashboard come on the heels of more access to vaccinations in the state of New Jersey, with the state reporting as many as 1.8 million people, or just under 20% of the state’s total population, being fully vaccinated as of April 6. 

Access to vaccines, particularly for college students, is poised to only increase as April continues, as President Joe Biden announced on April 6 that all adults will be eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine by April 19. New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy announced the same level of access for the state of New Jersey the day prior to the president’s announcement.

Stasolla said that though the university had built contingency plans to the contrary, Rider administration “had assumed that our students would be eligible for the vaccine in plenty of time to get it between now and the fall semester” and that Biden’s announcement “hasn’t necessarily changed our whole planning [for the fall semester] so far.”

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With vaccination numbers and outdoor temperatures quickly rising and university COVID-19 numbers falling, Stasolla emphasized that now is not the time for the Rider community to relax in its practicing of pandemic-related guidelines.

“It’s great that we’ve seen improved [case and quarantine] numbers, we always like that,” Stasolla said. “But we can’t get lax, we have to not let our guard down so we can get through the rest of the semester with a relatively low number of [COVID-19] cases.”

Caption: According to Rider’s online COVID-19 dashboard, six new cases of COVID-19 were reported between March 29 and April 4. 

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