This past week of testing yielded 19 new, positive tests. 27 students are isolated on campus in the Conference Center. Nine students have been cleared to return to campus. Fairfield still remains in Code Yellow, keeping the regulations and policies previously implemented last week in place, including the new inter-residential guest policy and the “grab and go” dining requirement.
Some students seem troubled by the rise in COVID-19 cases on campus over the past few weeks. In fact, some students believe that Fairfield isn’t doing enough to curb the spread of the virus, despite its current efforts.
Schools all over the country have been testing a larger portion of the student population each week, with some schools even testing the entire student body. At Yale University, both undergraduate and graduate students are required to get tested for COVID-19 twice per week, especially if they are living in high-density dorms.
Junior Brianna VanDermark is concerned about the amount of students that are randomly tested each week.
“I think Fairfield needs to be testing more of the student population,” she said. “[Other schools] are testing every student each week. I understand that’s expensive, but from a public health standpoint, it is a better way to track the COVID-19 spread.”
VanDermark is not alone in this sentiment. Kaitlyn Drake ‘23 is also wary of Fairfield’s low testing numbers.
“I personally think Fairfield isn’t testing enough. We need to have, at the very least, 30 percent of the population tested each week,” she said. “There are colleges and universities across America that test 100 percent of the student population each week, and Fairfield has the funds for that.”
Kathryn Kalaigian ‘21 is similarly worried about the fact that not every student has been tested yet.
“I do wish there was more frequent testing on campus. I know many students who still haven’t been tested, even though we’ve been here for a month now, which is a bit concerning. We shouldn’t have to seek testing elsewhere in order to rid ourselves of our anxieties,” she said.
Aside from the small sample size tested each week, students are also concerned about the methods used to test students. Instead of experienced nurses and doctors administering tests, students are required to self-administer their own COVID-19 nasal swab. This is a cause for concern, especially for Anwen Su, ‘21.
“[Self testing] bothers me because a lot of people probably won’t do it right. Nobody wants to have something shoved up their nose, and we’re not trained in testing,” Su said. “It’s good that we have twice weekly testing, but we should have professionals testing us. Because of self-testing, we likely have a lot of false negatives.”
Self-testing may be safer for the health professionals involved, but it’s likely that a large portion of students are not performing the nasal swab correctly. It’s easy for students to not insert the swab properly or far enough up their nasal cavity, which could lead to skewed, and even false, results. The nasal swabs used for the tests are considerably smaller than swabs used in hospitals and urgent care centers and aren’t able to be inserted as far into the nose.
Concerns about Fairfield’s COVID-19 safety measures seem to be skyrocketing due to the spike in cases over the past couple of weeks. Students are frustrated at the behavior of some that has contributed to this spike. Most of the cases on campus can be traced back to isolated incidents and specific groups of people that have spread the virus to their roommates and friends. COVID-19 cases have also been prevalent in sports teams across campus, since players come into close contact with each other during practice and often spend time together outside.
“As for the increasing number of cases, I think that it’s partially everyone’s fault,” said Drake. “I personally believe that all athletic activity should be halted because it is the teams who are spreading the virus. Because of their lack of masks during practices and when they’re hanging out with each other, the virus is easily caught and spread to other students. It makes the most sense to shut down sports so that everyone else can be safe.”
Students are also frustrated at Fairfield’s supposed lack of transparency. Despite the COVID-19 dashboard updated on Fairfield’s website each week, some students believe that the University still isn’t providing enough information.
The University has hosted webinars about COVID-19 data in previous weeks after test results, but students feel that they should have had access to the discussed information much sooner.
“What is concerning is Fairfield’s lack of transparency,” said VanDermark. “For example, they were housing isolated students in the Holiday Inn in Bridgeport. This is fine; however, they didn’t tell us about this change until this Friday, even though students have been there for over a week. Additionally, it is unclear if the students who test positive while isolating at home are being counted in the school’s positive test numbers.”
Drake agrees with VanDermark’s statement.
“It’s the fault of the University if they are not releasing all of the information that they could be,” she said.
Overall, students seem most concerned about being sent home due to the rise in cases, and most students are unaware of how close the University is to going fully remote for the rest of the semester.
“My main concern at this point would be that Fairfield sends us home when the cases are out of control and most of us have been exposed [to the virus]. At that point, every student would be putting their families and communities at risk,” VanDermark said.
Some students are even advocating for the University to go completely online now to prevent further infection, including Aarushi Vijay ‘22.
“I can’t really say much about the measures being taken by Fairfield, but the best one is to shift entirely online before more students’ lives are affected by [the virus],” she said.
Overall, concern seems to be the most common sentiment among the student body as COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Students are hopeful that the spread of the virus will be curbed and reduced as the semester goes on, but Fairfield remains uncertain in the wake of this deadly disease.