By Jackson Hare, Staff writer
Less than two weeks before I planned to go home for Labor Day weekend, homesickness was hitting me hard. Then, while sitting in one of my classes, several students received an email identifying them as a COVID-19 close contact. I checked my phone to see the same email and a text from my roommate telling me he had tested positive.
Panicked and confused, I received another email that only added to my confusion. It said that I did not need to get tested, I did not need to quarantine and I could just continue my life, although I had been spending nearly every waking moment with someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
According to Xavier’s COVID-19 Resource Center, only students who are unvaccinated or have yet to report their vaccination status are required to get tested and quarantine after being identified as a close contact of someone who tested positive.
With a 93.74% vaccination rate among students, I believe most of those who test positive for COVID-19 are vaccinated. However, this is not reflected in Xavier’s policies, allowing potential COVID-19 cases to fly under the radar.
Currently, there are only three students in quarantine for COVID-19, a seemingly minimal number. However, if only the 0.84% of students who are unvaccinated are required to get tested, who’s to say there aren’t unidentified students with COVID-19 walking around campus? This policy clearly does not protect students as it should, and it causes countless unnecessary stressors in a process that was already stressful to begin with.
Despite there being no requirement, I was still obligated to get tested because it was the only way I could safely return home. I could only manage to get an appointment to get tested the following morning due to an overwhelming amount of cases, which meant for the rest of the day, I would have to retreat to my room or walk around campus as a potential carrier of the virus.
There was nothing stopping me from walking around campus, including my dorm hall without a mask, considering how poorly enforced the mask policy is in a space where students congregate most often. Luckily, I didn’t have class before my appointment, as I would have still been required to attend because many professors require a positive test or quarantine orders to excuse an absence.
Thankfully, I tested negative. However, my suitemates were also identified as close contacts, but unlike me, they did not take it upon themselves to get tested. One of my suitemates was sick with the flu, which was the only reason my roommate got tested. Sure enough, he tested positive for COVID-19 and the flu, suggesting that germs were definitely exchanged between them. Therefore, there was a chance I was still sharing a space with someone with COVID-19.
I had to uncomfortably urge my suitemates to get tested, but neither felt it was necessary, and they refused. Beyond that, I was powerless. I talked to my RA and the university’s COVID-19 Support Center, but neither had the means to provide a solution that would guarantee my safety.
Although COVID-19 cases have decreased dramatically, the problem remains because the current illogical and stressful procedures are still in place.
Xavier’s COVID-19 procedures need to be amended to require all students, regardless of vaccination status, to get tested if they are in close contact with someone who tested positive. In addition, there needs to be a plan for students who must quarantine that is consistent among professors to ensure students won’t fall behind in classes, resolving an issue that currently discourages students from getting tested.
These changes will not only reduce the stress this process has on students and families, but will also ensure that any spread of the virus is actually documented, giving the university accurate data to support a potential return to a mask-free and COVID-19-free campus.