By: Elisheva Kohn  | 

Beren and Wilf to Remain Closed Through Purim, Berman Addresses Coronavirus Concerns Via Conference Call

Following the confirmation of a COVID-19 positive YU student, President Ari Berman addressed concerns regarding the virus on a conference phone call with the Yeshiva University community on Wednesday evening, March 4. Dr. Don Weiss, Director of Surveillance for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), participated in the conference call as well. 

At least 1,200 people called in to receive updates on the situation on YU campuses. Following the phone call, Berman sent a summary of the information covered in the phone call to the YU community via email, and the latest update was posted online.

Berman announced that all in-person undergraduate and graduate classes and events are canceled on both the Beren and Wilf campuses until after Purim, March 10, including the university’s planned Purim chagigot as well as the annual Red Sarachek yeshiva high school basketball tournament. Yeshiva University High School for Boys (MTA), which is located in Washington Heights, will be closed as well. Cardozo School of Law will continue to operate as usual. Earlier today, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo stated that the YU Wilf Campus would be closed through Friday.

Dormitories, batei midrash and food services will remain open and daily minyanim on the Wilf campus will continue, though Berman discouraged students from congregating in common areas, including the beit midrash. Midterms will be suspended, and faculty will be in touch with students when classes resume, Berman said. Optional classes will be available to students online. “All common areas on the Wilf and Beren campuses will undergo a “deep cleaning,” according to Berman. 

“These precautionary steps,” Berman said, “will allow us to work with city agencies and other professionals to best prepare our campuses and ensure the uncompromised safety of our students, faculty and staff.”

According to Weiss, coronavirus tests may be available on campus in the near future. Weiss declined to address the well-being of the two YU students who were taken to Bellevue Hospital to be tested for the virus earlier today by FDNY emergency medical technicians, citing the confidential nature of their cases. 

“There were two students in the university sent to the hospital today,” explained CJ Glicksman (YC ‘20), a resident advisor (RA) of the seventh floor of Rubin Hall, the floor on which the student confirmed to have COVID-19 resides. “One was sent because of extended contact with the infected student. The other was sent because he was feeling sick. The latter did not have contact with the infected student. As far as I have heard from housing, security, and the YU administration, neither resident is likely to have the virus. They were taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure, just in case.”

“Students on campus seem to be very on edge at the moment,” added Glicksman. However, Glicksman urged his fellow students not to panic, emphasizing that “YU and the DOH are obviously doing whatever is possible to contain the situation, and venting frustrations at YU can only be detrimental.”

Berman encouraged students to “continue with their normal lives,” maintaining that panic is a “key risk” and that students should approach the situation “with calmness.” 

Some students were dissatisfied with the way the university has been communicating with the student body regarding the current situation on campus. “The university is not being completely transparent with us,” said a resident of the seventh floor of Rubin Hall, commenting on the condition of anonymity. “I understand their concerns about inciting hysteria by telling this to the whole student body, but order comes secondary to our safety ... I am going home to my family and only learned now that I need to be self-quarantined,” he said. “My asthma makes me highly susceptible and puts me in greater danger. We need better communication because this is unacceptable.”  

The student was told by his RA that students who were in close contact with the patient should be self-quarantined. Students who reside on the seventh floor of Rubin Hall were advised to be tested tomorrow. “I hope these concerns are overprotective, but that’s not a risk we should be willing to take,” the resident added.

Concluding his email, Berman promised to continue to communicate with the YU community as the situation further unfolds. 

The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases in New York has reached 11; the five most recent COVID-19 positive patients are quarantined in their home in New Rochelle. 

Editor’s Note: For more information on the virus, consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines.

Yitzchak Carroll contributed to this story. 

Photo Caption: Media presence at the Wilf Campus on Wednesday, March 4
Photo Credit: The Commentator