By Bekah Stranger
The Coronavirus Response Task Force has made some adjustments to campus protocol and procedure this semester in light of the unpredictability of COVID-19.
While the committee has sought to allow for as much normalcy as possible, a few changes were deemed necessary for spring 2021. These include changes to quarantine protocol, the implementation of surveillance testing, and the creation of new tools to help students self-monitor their symptoms.
First, new quarantine protocols have been developed in order to make the process as smooth as possible. The quarantine and isolation system used last semester was functional when only a few students were required to quarantine, but was quickly overwhelmed when a surge in quarantined students occurred around late October.
“It was too many people for us to serve effectively,” Tony Schnyders, dean of community life and student engagement, said. Mel Scott, dean of students and chief student development officer, agreed. “People are just having a better experience if they go home,” Scott said.
These conclusions led the task force to decide that students living within a 75-mile radius of campus will be asked to move home if they are required to quarantine or isolate over the course of the semester. This policy, however, is flexible and students are able to petition to stay on campus for their quarantine period if there are extenuating circumstances involved with going home.
The task force has also guaranteed that quarantined students on campus will be allowed to go outside for exercise and fresh air if they are not displaying symptoms. Asymptomatic quarantined students will also be allowed to pick up their own food from the Brehme Centennial Center Conference Room, which can be easily accessed from the back of the building.
Next, the task force has decided that 3% of the student population will be surveillance tested each week. The testing pool will consist of both residents and commuters, and will include both undergraduate and graduate students.
According to the “Spring 2021 Protocols” tab on the Malone University website, the BinaxNow test has been adopted across campus. Students randomly selected for surveillance testing will be guided to self-administer a nasal swab.
Surveillance tests are completely free, and will only be administered to individuals who are not showing any symptoms. Symptomatic students will still be directed by the health center to get a test off-campus, as was required last semester. The point of testing in this manner is to keep symptomatic students physically isolated from the spaces where asymptomatic surveillance testing will take place.
There are a few steps students need to take once they have been selected for surveillance testing. In order to get test results and have a faster testing experience, students should download the Navica app and fill out two forms found on Malone Xpress before coming to their selected testing appointment. The Navica app is used to notify students when their test results are ready.
“Within 15 minutes you will have results,” Scott said.
“I’ve already done the self-administered [COVID-19] test, and it was fairly quick and easy,” Myriah Smith, a sophomore communication arts major, said. “I think that the additional testing and guidelines are necessary for us to have a full and healthy semester.”
If a student has tested positive for COVID-19 in the past 90 days and has recovered, they will be exempted from the surveillance testing process. Similarly, students who have taken part in a previous surveillance test will not be asked to test again for three weeks.
Finally, students will notice that a new symptom tracker has been added to the Malone Xpress home screen; a tool which, as of right now, is completely voluntary. If a student begins to feel symptomatic, filling out this form will alert the health center and immediately direct the symptomatic individual to the necessary COVID-19 Intake Form. Students who are not experiencing symptoms will see a green check mark appear each day after they complete the survey.
“Should cases arise, we have the capacity to make [the symptom tracker] mandatory,” Scott said. While the task force is hoping that this measure will not be necessary, they realize that it may be best to implement precautionary measures.
In the case of a surge, students will be required to present the check mark icon to staff members in order to enter class and the cafeteria. Showing a staff member this icon will prove that to the best of his or her ability a student has checked their symptoms that day and has not been knowingly exposed to someone symptomatic. This will only be put in place if absolutely necessary.
“[During] this semester, it is really important for us to remain steadfast in our commitment to keep each other safe,” Schnyders said.
As they did last semester, the task force is encouraging students to make choices that will have positive impacts on their peers and the community at large. Wearing a mask and practicing social distancing are good ways to respect others and keep case numbers down. The task force is seeking to do everything they can to make sure that students get to spend a safe and healthy spring semester on campus.
As this atypical school year continues on, campus leaders understand that everyone is tired of the ways the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the campus community. At the same time, they want students to be cautious and careful about COVID-19 related requirements, now more than ever.
“I want to encourage the Malone community to resist the temptation to relax with our protocol,” Schnyders said. For more information about new procedures, items mentioned in this article and further guidelines, please visit the Malone University “Spring 2021 Protocols” website found at malone.edu/springprotocols.