As of now, VWU continues into its second semester dealing with COVID-19 and has stated that “the University is maintaining policies from the fall semester that proved successful in achieving our goal of an in-person educational experience for our students” according to April Christman, executive assistant to the vice president for campus life and member of the Emergency Response Team. However, this has not been the case for some students and many members of the community are struggling to understand what the official policies are when dealing with quarantine, quarantine housing, exposure and positive COVID-19 test results.
According to the Returning Back to Campus – Spring 2021 COVID-19 Guide distributed to the VWU community before the start of the semester and currently available under VWU Coronavirus Information, the policy for those who test positive is, “When able, those testing positive for SARS-CoV-2 will complete their self-isolation at their permanent residence. Where self-isolation at a student’s permanent residence is not feasible or poses risk of transmission to others, the University will coordinate with the student and local health authorities to identify an appropriate location for self-isolation.”
Even though VWU is in its eighth week of the semester, over thirty students, whether they have tested positive or been exposed to someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 have been required to quarantine, whether that be on-campus in quarantine housing or at their permanent residence.
“We recommend anyone who is able to go home, to go home to quarantine if they can for their own comfort purposes. We have worked with several people who live really far away or have family members with compromised immune systems who prefer to remain on campus,” Jason Seward, associate vice president for campus life and operational management, said in an earlier interview with the Marlin Chronicle.
The COVID-19 Guide states that “the University will hold a limited number of spaces on campus for individuals with suspected/confirmed cases of COVID-19 and to accommodate the needs for room changes. Additionally the University will be working with its partners at a local Extended Stay as an overflow provision…” The Marlin Chronicle’s request for additional clarification on the number of quarantine spaces was declined by the Emergency Response Team.
Even though the COVID-19 Guide does not directly mention how cases of exposure will be handled in terms of quarantine, Christman explained that the self-isolation periods follow CDC guidelines where exposed individuals will need to quarantine for 14 days from the last day of exposure and individuals who test positive for COVID-19 will need to isolate themselves for 10 days after their positive test. Those who test positive do not need a negative COVID-19 test in order to return but instead need to be symptom free without help from any medication.
When students are notified to go into quarantine, they are informed by the administration through a phone call and then an email. They are told they need to self-isolate and schedule a COVID-19 test, according to an interview with Seward and Christman. Any other contact with the University is based on student need.
“During quarantine, students are still expected to attend classes virtually, stay in contact with their professors, and organize getting a COVID-19 test,” Christman said on Feb 26. Academic Affairs will notify professors about the student needing to go virtual; however, students are expected to stay in contact with their professors to organize assignments and class meetings.
An exposure situation is described as a prolonged period of exposure such as more than 15 minutes, being without a mask, and being less than 6 feet away from another by the Returning Back to Campus Spring 2021 guide. Students that get directly exposed to an individual that tests positive for COVID-19 must self-isolate and get a COVID-19 test. As mentioned in a previous interview with the Chronicle on Feb. 5, the University “require[s] a diagnostic PCR test and for that result to be sent back in order for us to calculate the isolation and quarantine time period and to begin contact tracing,” said Christman.
The Emergency Response team recommends that community members check for the latest updates from the university through the latest emails from the University. However, as COVID-19 numbers on campus continue to change, the official university policy that remains is “all institutional policies are subject to change due to change in guidance and conditions” as stated by Christman.
By Lauren Faulkner