STANDISH — Saint Joseph’s College has put more restrictive pandemic policies in place in response to its most recent COVID-19 outbreak that infected at least seven students and filled half of the college’s available quarantine spaces.

The new policies from the Pandemic Response Team are “behavioral modifications” to COVID-19 prevention protocols, said Oliver Griswold, head of brand and marketing for the private, Catholic college.

“This virus landscape changes literally every day, both out in the world and on campus,” Griswold said in an interview Tuesday. “We’re dealing with a congregate living situation at a college and so we need to just adapt.”

There were two separate outbreaks on the campus last semester. Nine students tested positive in the first outbreak in September, prompting a two-week “Study in Place” model, during which students were told to leave their rooms only when necessary, in-person classes went remote and commuter students were told not to come to campus. In November, at least 15 students tested positive and students were sent home for the winter break a week early.

The announcement of the stricter policies came just a day after the final cohort of students arrived on campus Feb. 7 as part of the phased return to campus.

The changes include:

  • Limiting residential students’ “inter-residence hall travel” the hours between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
  • Barring commuter students from residential hours between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
  • Lowering maximum dorm room and suite capacity to three and 10 people, respectively.
  • Fining each resident of a room or suite $150 each if a gathering violates new and existing protocols.

The college also announced Monday new testing protocols for residential students who leave campus overnight.

The administration is not banning off-campus travel but is “strongly recommending that you remain on campus this week, and every week through the end of the semester,” read a post on the college’s website.

Griswold said the fines, which is the first monetary disciplinary measure the Pandemic Response Team has implemented, is their “click it or ticket strategy.”

“The fines are a recognition that there are different motivations that people have to uphold the rules, basically,” he said. “We want to use all the tools at our disposal.”

Griswold added that the team is working to give student leaders “a more direct voice” in decision making.

Senior Class President Alexandria Simpson, 21, said while she is “very appreciative” of the team’s work, “I think everyone is kind of just fed up with COVID at this point.”

Junior Troy Hendricks, 20, called the policy changes a result of “trial and error,” but “really reasonable.”

Hendricks said he’s noticed “less tension” on campus this semester compared to last, which he attributes to everyone getting “used to the atmosphere that we’re living in now.”

“Everybody’s kind of just settling in, I guess, in realizing that hey, it’s going to be like this for a little bit,” he said.

As a student leader, Simpson has been working to keep engagement up and modify the usual senior celebrations to a pandemic world. She said it “stinks” that the Class of 2021’s junior year was cut short and their senior year is overshadowed by COVID-19. As a member of the college’s field hockey team, “to lose my senior season has been devastating.”

But, she said, “the students’ safety is of the utmost importance,” and the Pandemic Response Team is “definitely doing their best.”

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