Over the last two weeks, the College has seen its largest Covid-19 spike since the beginning of the pandemic. As of 2:00 p.m. yesterday, there were a total of 191 active Covid-19 student cases.
Unlike in past semesters, the College is not providing isolation housing for students who test positive. Instead, students are isolating in place. This policy shift, which started in January, has put the burden on students to use their own discretion in terms of the health and safety of those with whom they share a living space.
In his April 12 email to the campus community, President Rose wrote that the community would have to find ways to navigate Covid-19 as it continues to spread and the College attempts to work toward a return to campus life as normal.
“We will almost certainly go through periods when we will have to adjust,” Rose said. “This is one of those times.”
Some students are isolating with roommates who have also tested positive, while others are turning to creative solutions to mitigate the risk of exposing their roommates.
Associate Dean for Academic Administration Mike Ranen said that mental health concerns are the reason why students who have tested positive for the virus are now asked to quarantine in their own dorm rooms instead of temporary isolation housing facilities.
“Having to move to a hotel or empty apartment for five to 10 days takes a lot on a student’s mental health. And with Omicron being so transmissible, we know that once you find out that you’re positive, chances are you’ve already exposed your roommate,” Ranen said. “I understand the concerns for a roommate having to share space [with a positive roommate], but we have guidelines for roommates who are close contacts.”
Some students whose roommates tested positive for the virus have temporarily moved elsewhere on campus in order to avoid contracting the virus themselves.
Emi Schneider ’24 was on her way back to campus from a weekend home when she found out her roommates had tested positive. She scrambled to make the best decision for her health, ultimately electing to stay with friends elsewhere on campus. But two days later, she tested positive with the students who hosted her.
“I woke up in the morning, and I just knew I had it. I had felt completely fine the day before, but when I woke up, I had a gut feeling,” Schneider said.
Schneider later moved back into her triple with her positive roommates in Boody-Johnson House, where 11 of 25 house residents have tested positive.
Across campus, in Appleton Hall, Gabe Gitter-Dentz ’25 tested positive. To avoid infection and maintain his class attendance, his roommate, Owen Gramley ’25, moved himself to the Brunswick Hotel
“The Brunswick Hotel is obviously very expensive, so I have to move out today and figure out what I’m going to do from there,” Gramley said. “I think I’m going to couch surf.”
Some students have said they felt lucky to have roommates with antibodies, due to recent infection.
“I was lucky that my roommate had it over [spring] break. So, we didn’t have to worry about masking within the room, which was good, generally,” Yaseen Ahmed ’23, who recently tested positive for Covid-19, said. “But I’m feeling decent, it’s nice to be out.”
Ahmed has since tested negative and is out of isolation, as many students are. Students entering and exiting isolation has caused the total number of Covid-19 cases to fluctuate.
“While we’ve had a high number of new cases, the actual total number of active cases has been flattening out,” Ranen said. “We’re seeing people who tested [positive] last week start to test out of isolation. I don’t know how it’s going to go, but these last few days have been encouraging”
While the number of active cases is plateauing, there is still uncertainty regarding the College’s future Covid-19 policies.
“There are no plans to tighten any restrictions this time. Obviously, we’ll look at the cases, but hopefully we’ll be able to loosen restrictions,” Ranen said. “I think my email was alluding to hopefully we would [loosen restrictions] once cases get back down to a manageable number, and at a lower number will be able to loosen some more restrictions by the end of the year.”