The handling of COVID-19 concerns on college campuses was going to be of incredible importance in reopening universities from the moment the virus touched down on U.S. soil. COVID-19 testing is adversely affecting student life on campus more than what was expected, and testing has struggled to be all-encompassing as with its original goal.
The goal of random surveillance testing on campus was to test 15% of the student body weekly and to find any cases that could be asymptomatic within the student body. This process has worked in capacity, but the process after the random surveillance test is where the student life begins to be affected, and the uncertainty of the situation mounts.
Once a student tests positive on campus, they are quarantined in a separate dorm on campus for 10-14 days, depending on whether they are asymptomatic or not. This process is standard, and in my opinion, is a proper and safe protocol, and is in line with guidance from the CDC. However, once the student tests positive, his or her roommate(s) are not required to have a test unless they show symptoms of the illness.
This process is flawed on campus, as many students will not exhibit symptoms but do have a high chance of contracting the virus. According to multiple science journals, including the University of Buffalo Department of Medicine, 80% of people in the age bracket of 18-22 will be asymptomatic.
By not testing the student’s roommate or roommates for COVID-19, the testing process is not being used to its full potential and could incidentally hurt the Gonzaga community as a whole.
One positive decision that has been made in interaction with a student’s roommate(s) is having their said roommate or roommates quarantine for 14 days, whether this be on campus in an apartment or off-campus in a room provided by the university. This process is positive on the surface, but when you peel back the layers a bit, it is apparent that this process does not come without its own flaws.
When it comes to testing roommates that live with a student that has tested positive, these roommates are directed to quarantine from one another and to not get a test for five days to see whether or not they will even show any symptoms of also having the virus. After the five days when they are allowed to get tested, if the results come back negative, they still must quarantine for the entire 14-day duration.
Once the student who tested positive for coronavirus quarantines for ten days, they can move back to their room and have free reign. This process has questioned the effectiveness of the quarantine for the infected students, as the students who test negative are still required to quarantine, while one of their roommates is allowed to go onto campus and in public spaces.
This is one of, if not the least effective guidelines, put forth by the university.
Speaking of the guidelines set forth by the university, they have led to increased confusion around roommate testing and testing in general, as well as an overall dissent towards policies that have been previously instituted.
The lack of clarity on guidelines put forth by GU is the main reason why there are questions around the testing process and how it moves forward. To limit this confusion, the policies need to be reformed to better encompass the original goal they were set forth to achieve.
Now I do not want to come off as someone who doesn’t think that we need to be testing our students. I moreover want to emphasize the process of roommate and contract tracing testing, and how GU can do a better job of clarifying this process for Zags.
Roommate testing is something that has helped our community but could do even more help if the confusion of the situation is reformed using simple solutions, such as better communication on quarantines, testing for all roommates no matter the time and an overall clear message that resonates with the original goal to keep students safe and healthy on campus.
We are not out of the woods yet Zags. Keep wearing your masks, practicing social distancing and washing your hands. Together we will get through this most challenging time.