Emerson will hold classes in the Paramount Center in the fall, just below the building’s residential floors that will serve as the college’s designated quarantine space for those exposed to or infected with COVID-19.
The decision will put healthy students just one floor away from a space that may eventually fill with students sick or exposed to the highly contagious virus.
But the college maintains that classes held in the building will not put students at any additional risk.
Students who are relocated to Paramount to quarantine will have a separate entrance into the building and the college has installed three hospital-grade air filters, one in each section of the Center, Vice President and Dean of Campus Life Jim Hoppe told The Beacon in a Zoom interview.
“It’s a balance trying to determine the impact on the rest of the residential community and what was going to be best for students who needed to have a short term relocation supported by the fact that… the three areas of the whole Paramount Center are separate,” he said.
Paramount was chosen as the quarantine space because of the ratio of individual rooms to bathrooms in the building, Hoppe said.
While the science on virus transmission through air conditioning or ventilation systems remains inconclusive, at least one study suggests that COVID-19 can spread through such systems. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that anyone infected with the virus or showing symptoms should not remain in a closed building with healthy people.
Hartford Healthcare suggests that virus particles can pass through even the highest quality air filters, and that new air circulation in and out of buildings is the best way to keep the likelihood of transmission low.
Paramount has several floors of classrooms and during normal operations houses a number of Performing Arts and general education classes. Under new social distancing regulations, several larger, non-classroom spaces in the building will be used as classrooms.
Some students have expressed discomfort with the idea of attending classes near the quarantine space on Twitter.
“Am I the only one with a class in Paramount???” rising senior Leah Cedeño wrote on twitter Aug. 9. “Like how are there classes in the quarantine building I-”