Bocconi University is currently under the spotlight for the management of the Covid-19 outbreak. Some cases of Covid-19 have been detected in the Castiglioni Residence since Sunday the 4th of October and the students living there are now subject to quarantine for 14 days, until the 18th of October.
We decided to interview Bocconi University’s Managing Director Riccardo Taranto to find out more about how Bocconi is dealing with the current delicate situation.
How did Bocconi react to the Covid-19 emergency in the first place?
For Bocconi, to some extent, the emergency started earlier than in the rest of Italy. In the last week of January, the period in which students were returning to Milan after Christmas holidays and exchange students arrived, we found ourselves with a first suspected case. Having several students coming from China, we immediately took precautions for the protection of our community: we set up a Covid Crisis Committee, with which we aimed to analyze the issues to be addressed, deploying our managerial skills and our economic capacity and involving both our staff and the faculty. Then, despite initial difficulties, starting from February we managed to deal with the crisis thanks to the employment of technology, introducing a new fully online system, which I suppose is now known to all students.
How did the Administration deal with the return on campus?
When in-person lessons were allowed again starting in SDA Bocconi in June, we engaged in the enrichment of the teaching experience, introducing a blended model. We are doing our best to avoid any contagion, as is manifested in the investments we made and in our communication campaign “Your Safety Matters”, which reminds the whole Bocconi community of the fundamental rules, e.g. washing hands frequently, respecting the distance and wearing the mask around campus. Moreover, we employed 40 people, whose job is to make sure that the whole community respects the rules. In conclusion, our attention has been very high since the start of the crisis and, especially from the return on campus on the 24th of August, we tried to act accordingly.
How are Health and Safety guaranteed on campus?
An ambulance was introduced permanently on campus and we recently decided to introduce an outpatient clinic with a doctor in the building at Piazza Sraffa 11 from Monday to Friday from 8am to 6pm and a remote medical consultation in the evening and on weekends. Also, we have entered into an agreement with important health institutes, such as Humanitas, Multimedica and Cds, for the management of widespread serological tests and possible swab tests in the event of a positive test result. Finally, we are working closely with ATS Milan, the city’s agency handling Covid-19 prevention.
What was the state of play before Castiglioni’s first case was reported?
Bocconi is currently at the 7th/8th week of on campus activities, something that most Italian universities have not reached yet, as they started at most three weeks ago or with a more online-focused teaching compared to us. Our numbers have been infinitesimal compared to the dimension of our University. Before Castiglioni’s patient zero, since the start of the emergency we knew of six cases of students who were affected by Covid-19 and who reported to us their condition. However, most of them were not on campus. Specifically, concerning a case of a student suspected to be positive (who then tested negative), we opted for the temporary suspension of the in-person lectures in the specific classes which he attended.
Castiglioni Residence’s outbreak: what happened?
A student living in the residence informed us that he tested positive to the Covid-19 test in the evening between Friday the 2nd and Saturday the 3rd of October. However, he was not in the residence anymore, as he had gone back home for the weekend. We activated the contact tracing, in accordance with ATS Milan’s protocol, and other cases or potential cases emerged. Another person who was no longer in the residence tested positive. Also, we discovered that there had been some risky behaviors in the previous days which had facilitated the diffusion of the virus. On Sunday, three potential cases were confirmed.
Now, on the 9th of October, we know of about nine people who tested positive to Covid-19: five of them are currently in the residence, one is staying in another room, where we put him since the start and where he is isolated from other people, and three others are currently staying home, where they had tested positive. On Tuesday morning, the 6th of October, ATS Milan sent us an email enumerating the rules to be followed. Firstly, positive students had to start quarantine; all residence students, both those physically present and those who had returned home for the weekend, had to start home isolation, considering 14 days from the 4th of October. Then, we made the test available for all students in the residence, on a voluntary basis, setting up two areas in the residence.
The Castiglioni Residence
How do quarantine and self-isolation work for students at Castiglioni residence?
People who tested positive to the Covid-19 test have to remain in their room and they must have a toilet available for themselves. If it is shared with others, it must be sanitized after each use by the student affected by Covid-19. All the other students observing self-isolation can exit their rooms and move around the residence, but they must keep the mask and avoid gatherings, as it was already contemplated by our protocol. They must not exit the residence: if they did, they could be subject to criminal charges. Students manage their own food shopping (online or someone does shopping for them) but we make sure that they can collect it in their room, in case of quarantined students, or at the reception, for the rest of the students.
The number of cases was not communicated in the messages you sent on You@B to students: why?
Bocconi does not handle in first person the tracking of positive cases, which is instead managed by ATS Milan. In fact, paradoxically, we received the information of the nine cases of Castiglioni Residence at 12 on the 6th of October, while students could already find this news on some newspaper, like Corriere della Sera, because the health institution had already communicated them the number of cases.
Do you think that students are currently respecting all the precautions against the spread of Covid-19?
Although we established the rules to be respected, beyond a certain line it is up to individual behaviors: each of us is responsible for other people and for themselves. We intervened more than once with specific messages, in which we thanked students for their commitment to respect the guidelines, however pointing out that we noticed some inadequate behaviors. For instance, on 31st of August there was a gathering at Gud and some days later there was another one at Ravizza Park, because there was an event organized by one of the student associations. Another example is the gathering at a bar near Bocconi, of which a newspaper talked about in these days. Unfortunately, we cannot really intervene on these situations happening outside campus. Right now, I think that it depends nearly exclusively on you students, and on your choices.
You announced the intention to offer the serological test to all students and the screening service with a swab to those students staying in the residences, on a voluntary basis. How will this service be organized?
Bocconi decided to set up an epidemiological campaign, paying for the serological test for all students adhering, with the aim of reassuring students and their families. Our partners, especially Humanitas, will make a statistical screening from this data. However, I would like to remind you that ATS Milan did not contemplate this step, since there are currently no other reports of critical issues on campus other than the Castiglioni residence case. For now, over 4000 students have already given their consent to participate in the epidemiological campaign and we still have no news about the specific modalities. On the other hand, we decided to offer a swab and/or a serological test for the 2000 students living in the residences. This will require a longer time, considering our numbers and the availability of our partners: hopefully, the campaign will be activated before the end of October.
Does the epidemiological campaign involve the faculty and staff too?
The epidemiological campaign with serological tests involving professors and the staff, always on a voluntary basis, has already been activated, starting from July: more than 50% of the faculty/staff have already adhered to it. Some of them have already been tested. The screening is handled by appointment, in order to avoid queues and gatherings, and it will be repeated three times during the year: the first round just ended, the second round will be in October-December and the third round will be in January-March. For now, none of those tested positive to the serological test, then subject to the swab, resulted to be positive, meaning that they may have been affected to Covid-19 in the past, but they have already recovered.
Concerning the new campus: do you have updates?
SDA started having in-person lectures in June, while the gym and the swimming pools are nearly at the end of the construction work. At the beginning of 2021, hopefully if Covid-19 and the DPCMs allow it, they should be ready for use. Also, in the first months of usage, they will be exclusively or nearly exclusively available to Bocconi, as we asked.
Do you have a final message for Bocconians?
We will always do our best to guarantee you the best experience, in accordance with the national situation. However, be flexible because, if there are some cases, some classes will have to continue the courses in the online modality. Remember: your behaviors make the difference. Take all the precautions and be responsible, especially during the weekend, and have adequate behaviors during the graduation ceremonies, which are to resume in person for Master students in the upcoming weeks. Wear a mask, respect social distancing, and do not hug or kiss each other. We trust you all and I think this is the most important point.
Photos by our Maxime Chatillon (IG @iamaxime).