Tens of thousands of University of Connecticut students returned to classes Monday wearing masks and taking other safety precautions, kicking off the fall semester in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We just have to get adjusted. This is how it is going to be in this age," said Mason Holland, a sophomore student from New Jersey. "It is going to be like this until we can get a vaccine."
According to a university spokesperson, more than 22,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in courses at UConn's main campus this fall. About half of all UConn students will be taking courses entirely online, while the other half will have at least one in-person class this fall.
“I expected to be in a room full of students and now I am in my dorm on video chat," said Yosmeiris Castro, a freshman from Waterbury.
"There is a lot of nervousness and also excitement to be right here on campus so looking forward to it and make the best of a weird semester for us," said Richard Sarria, a senior at UConn.
As of Monday afternoon, 58 residential students were currently infected with COVID-19, a 1.16 percent positivity rate, the school reported.
"Maintaining the health of the student body is going to be a daily challenge. We accept that. That is a condition of opening," said Dean of Students for UConn Eleanor Daugherty. "We are just going to have to continue to be vigilant and nimble."
Last week, in response to a cluster of COVID-19 cases, UConn placed an entire residence hall, Garrigus Suites, under a preventative quarantine. There are 270 students living in the dorm, according to university officials.
"Making the best of the situation," said Ryan Bologna, a senior journalism student from Greenwich.
Bologna video-chatted NBC Connecticut from his room in Garrigus Suites. He said he has only left his room to get food, which he described as safe and requiring minimal contact. Bologna said he has been staying occupied with video games and face-timing with friends. With most of his classes already online, he does not anticipate that the quarantine will affect his learning.
According to Daugherty, the university is working with students on an individual basis to make sure they get access to the health and academic help they need.
As the semester moves forward, Daughterty said that her team will continue to monitor the health of the student body and react accordingly. They will also address any reported gatherings on an individual basis.
“We just need to keep at it day after day and stay on our toes," said Daugherty.