NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Concerns are growing over coronavirus outbreaks as college students return to campus.

On Tuesday, CBS2’s Hazel Sanchez found out what’s being done to keep students and staff safe, while adapting to “the new normal.”

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St. John’s University sophomore Shelby Meristil is finally able to walk around campus after being quarantined in his dorm room for 14 days. Meristil is from Maryland, one of the states required to quarantine as part of New York’s travel advisory.

“It was actually good and bad at the same time. Good, I got to think about stuff, do my own self care-type stuff. Bad was I had no social contact with anybody,” Meristil said.


The university in Jamaica, Queens has strict safety guidelines in place. The campus housing population was cut in half. Students are required to test clear of COVID-19 prior to arrival, with mandatory daily online wellness checks before entering campus.

Masks are required and classrooms and auditoriums are set up for safe, social distanced learning and virtual classes.

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Safety reminders are everywhere on campus, but school administrators are concerned about what might happen off campus.

“I don’t think you’re gonna find a parent of a university community member that is not going to be worrying about that. It’s human tendency. So we’re gonna do our best to continue to remind our students and to help them make good choices,” said Dr. Kathryn Hutchinson, St. John’s vice president of student affairs.

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The University of North Carolina canceled all in-person classes after more than 130 students tested positive for COVID-19 and more than 300 others were quarantined due to possible exposure. Fordham University and Quinnipiac University sent students warnings of suspensions and even expulsion from school if they’re caught gathering in groups of more than 10 people indoors or 16 outdoors.

Normally, students would be congregating at the great lawn at St. John’s. The university said it will make sure students adhere to social distancing guidelines both on and off campus by making them feel like they’re part of the solution, not the problem.

“We want to approach it, again, more from a partnership perspective, and that we all care about each other,” said Simon Moller, St. John’s provost and VP of academic affairs.

St. John’s administrators said they’ll meet with students to discuss violations before penalties are considered.

“It is actually hard to follow these guidelines, especially if you’re 18, 19, 20 in our college years, because this is a time where we’re supposed to, like, live your life, meet people,” Meristil said.

Meristil said it’s the new college experience, where the health and safety of everyone must come first.

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