Can color-coded COVID alerts keep students on campus?

McDaniel College starts fall semester on yellow-alert level requires masks, social distancing and symptoms checks

McDaniel College this fall semester will use a traffic-light-style color code to keep students informed about the status of COVID suppression efforts on campus.

As the Maryland college welcomed its largest-ever incoming class this week for hybrid classes than began Thursday, administrators placed the campus on a yellow alert level.

The yellow alert, which will remain in place for the first two weeks, requires students to: Check for symptoms twice a day; follow all safety procedures such as wearing masks and social distancing; and avoid non-academic gatherings.

The college’s “Community Safe. McDaniel Strong” campaign features extensive signage reminding students about the safety measures and behavior needed to keep the campus open through Thanksgiving, says Cheryl Knauer, McDaniel’s director of public relations.

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The campus also designed on “on-track challenge” scavenger hunt where students followed clues to different stations where they learned about all the safety procedures and new features, such hydration stations, that have been implemented.

At each stop, they got a prize such as a water bottle, t-shirt, McDaniel-branded mask or a cinch-bag. “Overwhelmingly, our students want to be here and have an in-person experience even if they’re taking classes online or in a hybrid,” Knauer says.

McDaniel’s move-in safety

During this week’s move-in process, students used a mobile app to reserve a check-in time. Once on campus, they remained in their cars as they checked in for the semester in the school’s stadium.

They drove past tents where they picked up room keys and collected other information.

Two students, who contracted the virus off-campus, were diagnosed positive for COVID during testing done during McDaniel’s move-in process this week, Knauer says.

More from UB: How a university’s welcome weekend moved online

The college tested all students who did not arrive with a negative result. McDaniel officials will conduct surveillance testing for COVID throughout the semester.

As for the hybrid courses, the semester will consist of two seven-week sessions, which will limit the number of people each student or instructor must interact with, Knauer says.

The college has asked instructors to plan one in-person session each week.

UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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