Sacred Heart, University of Saint Joseph roll out saliva-based COVID-19 test for students, staff

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In the past week, two Connecticut universities began using a saliva-based COVID-19 test that was developed at Yale, in response to heightened concerns about coronavirus outbreaks on campuses.

On Monday, the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford began using the SalivaDirect test, which is a less invasive COVID-19 test that uses a patient’s saliva as opposed to a nasal swab. A day later, on Tuesday, Sacred Heart University in Fairfield also rolled out the SalivaDirect test on its campus.

Other universities, including Quinnipiac in Hamden, have already implemented other forms of saliva testing, The Courant previously reported.

University of Saint Joseph President Rhona Free said in a statement that the university has been testing a portion of students weekly since the school year began — but when university officials noticed other campuses begin to see outbreaks, they decided to increase their weekly testing numbers.

“Over the last few weeks as we saw upticks of positive cases on other campuses we decided to increase the percentage of students tested each week and we also wanted more rapid results,” Free said. “SalivaDirect was able to complete the new level of testing that we needed with quick results.”

The University of Saint Joseph plans to continue administering the saliva tests at least two days a week through the end of the semester, Free said.

Sacred Heart’s rollout of SalivaDirect also comes amid heightened concerns of an outbreak.

Earlier this week Sacred Heart said that more than 100 students have been suspended for violating the school’s COVID-19 protocols since the start of the semester. President John J. Petillo has warned that a saying “a significant number” of students were not taking the pandemic seriously and said the school could suspend in-person education if its cases did not slow.

Sacred Heart spokesperson Deb Noack


Sacred Heart University backs out University of Bridgeport partnership

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FAIRFIELD — Sacred Heart University is backing out of a planned partnership to absorb portions of the University of Bridgeport.

The pullout was made public on Monday with a late morning message to the Sacred Heart community.

Sacred Heart, along with Goodwin University in East Hartford and Paier College in Hamden, announced on the UB campus in June that it would take over buildings and programs at the struggling 97-year-old higher education institution.

Sacred Heart initially said it would take over five programs, including engineering, the School of Chiropractic, a graduate program in nutrition, some education certificate programs and a program in counselor education. More recently that was down to two programs: nutrition and chiropractic.

When Sacred Heart University officials spoke to a Bridgeport City Council committee last week, SHU administrators said they were looking at “one or two programs.”

Goodwin University was — and still is — expected to take the lion’s share of UB programs with Paier College taking just UB’s school of design. In both cases, the programs would remain on the Bridgeport campus.

In a memo to the Sacred Heart community, President John Petillo said after a due diligence process and an attempt to verify the finances, SHU is unable to move forward with this acquisition.

“The enrollment projections, and the corresponding financial projections, provided to us by UB’s principal lender and its consulting firm when the letter of intent was signed, did not materialize,” Petillo said. “The enrollment numbers turned out to be significantly less than what we were led to believe. We made another offer, in line with the new projections, and that was turned down.”

Deborah Noack, a Sacred Heart spokeswoman, said the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, which has put a strain on college finances across the nation, had nothing to do


Sacred Heart University suspends 109 students for violating coronavirus safety protocols

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Sacred Heart University suspended more than 100 students for violating coronavirus safety measures, officials said Tuesday, as campuses across America continue struggling to keep kids in check.

The Catholic school in Fairfield, Connecticut, has almost 10,000 undergrads and graduate students. It took action against 109 pupils this semester with suspensions of 7, 14 or 30 days. Two students have been removed from campus altogether for the rest of this term, Sacred Heart spokeswoman Deborah Noack said.

The violations were not wearing masks, failing to keep social distance, gathering in groups of more than 12 or having unauthorized guests.

Sacred Heart is operating in a hybrid model, with classes split between in-person and remote lectures — though any student has the right to go all-online.

Suspended students can still take their classes online, but cannot set foot on campus or participate in any other school activities.

Noack said she had a degree of sympathy for the suspended students.

“It’s understandable in a way, when you think about how much they’re going through and how much they’re missing the traditional college experience,” Noack told NBC News on Tuesday. “So yeah, I get it.”

But she added, “It’s not the right thing to do and there are consequences. But it’s hard to not do what you’re used to doing.”

Southern Methodist University students watch the game between their team the Mustangs and the Memphis Tigers in Dallas on Oct. 3, 2020.Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports

The Sacred Heart revelation came days after police moved in on the student section at a Southern Methodist University football game when the young fans didn’t wear masks or spread out. The odd scene played out late in the first half of SMU’s game agains Memphis at Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas.

Some of the


More than 100 Sacred Heart University students suspended for violating COVID-19 protocols

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More than 100 Sacred Heart University students have been suspended for violating the school’s COVID-19 protocols since the start of the semester, a university spokeswoman said Monday.

In the past month, the private university in Fairfield has issued 109 total “COVID-related suspensions,” Executive Director of Communications Deborah Noack said in an email. Undergraduate classes began Aug. 31.

Suspensions typically last 14 days or 30 days depending on the situation, but two of the students became “repeat offenders” and have been removed from campus for the remainder of the semester, she added. While suspended, students are not allowed to come on campus or participate in any school-related activities.

In early September, following an uptick in coronavirus infections among students living off campus in Bridgeport, the university asked all students living in the city to attend classes from home and avoid visiting the school’s campus.

“With … this flare-up in Bridgeport, we need to be highly cautious and proactive in our decisions,” Sacred Heart officials wrote in a notice to students.

Less than three weeks later university President John J. Petillo chastised students in a video message, saying “a significant number” of them were not taking the pandemic seriously and said the school could suspend in-person education if its cases did not slow.

“We are at a real point of decision about the future of the semester on-ground,” he said in the Sept. 21 video. “We need to turn the tide and get the spread of the virus under control.”

Sacred Heart is not the first school in Connecticut to suspend students for ignoring COVID-19 health and safety protocols, but the total number of students cited is greater than has been reported at other colleges and universities in the state. Qunnipiac University, Connecticut College and UConn have also sent home undergrads for