Public Safety Discusses New Role Amongst COVID-19 Procedures

Public+Safety+officers+now+require+students+fill+out+their+VitalCheck+assessments+in+order+to+use+their+IDs+to+enter+campus.+%28Courtesy+of+Fordham%27s+Website%29

Public Safety officers now require students fill out their VitalCheck assessments in order to use their IDs to enter campus. (Courtesy of Fordham's Website)

Patricia Whyte, Staff Writer

Fordham’s campuses reopened this semester amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, and Public Safety has been taking extra precautions to limit the spread of COVID-19.

John Carroll, associate vice president of Public Safety, said Public Safety’s main concern for this semester is keeping students safe. 

“In this day and age, we’re asking our students to be responsible citizens,” Carroll said. “These are young men and women, they’re not kids anymore, the only way to keep their peers safe is for cooperation.” 

In March, Public Safety was working closely with the Office of Residential Life to move students off campus. Since April, Public Safety has been sourcing protective equipment to provide for students, faculty and staff, including masks, gloves and hand sanitizer. 

“We put a lot of work into preparing for this semester’s return,” Carroll said. 

Now that students are back on campus, Carroll said Public Safety’s focus has now shifted to keeping them here and keeping them safe. The university has implemented a plan called Fordham Forward to ensure a safe reopening. 

The Office of the President sent an email to the Fordham community on July 20 detailing the measures taken to protect its students this semester. 

“The health and safety of the community are paramount,” the email said. “Our actions should not put ourselves or anyone in the community at undue risk during the pandemic.” 

These actions include de-densifying the campus, instituting mandatory universal testing, daily monitoring through VitalCheck and making the physical environment on campus as safe as possible by encouraging social distancing. 

VitalCheck is a daily health assessment all students, faculty and staff have to fill out in order to be on campus. The assessment asks users if they’ve experienced COVID-like symptoms, tested positive for COVID-19, had close contact with someone who had COVID-19 or symptoms or traveled to a state where COVID-19 rates are increasing. 

Robert Fitzer, director of Public Safety for Rose Hill and Westchester campuses, said all persons entering campus must fill out this assessment from VitalCheck or be screened in person. 

“The Public Safety guards have all been clearly instructed to check everyone’s University ID,” Fitzer said. “VitalCheck is now integrated into each member of the Fordham community’s ID card.”

Every person who fills out the assessment and is healthy will receive a pass to be on campus for that day, either through email or text message. If one has received a pass to enter campus, they can simply scan their ID at a gate to be let in. Visitors who are not registered with VitalCheck are required to be screened prior to entering campus.

“We have three temperature screening tents located at the Bathgate entrance, Third Avenue entrance and the shelter at the main traffic circle at Southern Boulevard opposite the Botanical Garden,” Fitzer said. 

Students are expected to follow the entire Fordham Forward plan both on and off campus. Fitzer said Public Safety will respond to any complaints of criminal or illegal behavior, including violations of the university code of conduct.

“We ask every member of the campus community to conduct themselves as responsible citizens taking all requirements of the governor’s executive order seriously to protect themselves and the community,” Fitzer said. 

For example, should someone call and report an incident of off-campus partying, Public Safety will then come to break the gathering up and file an incident report, Carroll said. Carroll defines a “party” as a gathering of more than 10 people.

“The last thing we ever wanted to be was somebody who breaks up a party,” Carroll said. “We’re asking for cooperation, they [students] are adults. And if they cooperate, all is well and people will be safe, and we’ll be able to get through the semester.” 

On Aug. 27, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced colleges in New York must shut down in-person instruction for two weeks if they have 100 cases of confirmed positives for COVID-19 or a number equal to 5% of their total student and faculty population. 

“What it means, if you follow that executive order, is that all classes have to be handled remotely from that point on,” Carroll said. 

Should Fordham reach that level of cases, the New York City Department of Health would have to approve reopening after the two weeks of online learning. Fordham would then present a plan of action, which has already been laid out, detailing how the university would open again, Carroll said. 

Carroll reiterated the importance of each community member doing their part to cooperate with Public Safety and keep others safe. 

“If you don’t have the community on your side, you’re going to have a real hard time doing anything,” Carroll said. “We need the community to be working with us, and it begins with our students.”