Over the past two years or so, all I’ve been able to think about is how I can avoid getting COVID-19 while still being able to live out the “best years of my life.” Since mid-December, COVID cases have been on the rise, especially with the current prominence of the highly contagious Omicron variant. The symptoms of the new variant often resemble that of the common cold for those that are vaccinated and boosted. I want to first recognize that I am not denying that getting diagnosed with COVID-19 is still scary as people are still dying. Many of the people who I know that tested positive after repopulation testing for this Spring 2022 semester, however, did not suffer many major symptoms. These students were merely moved into on-campus isolation housing, which after the first twenty-four hours costs $200 dollars a day. These students were then denied access to attend classes over Zoom or other virtual meeting platforms.
I, like other students who have heard about the isolation housing, do not disagree that the University has the right to charge for this housing, but $200 dollars a night is an exorbitant amount of money to request from COVID-19 positive students and their families. Fairfield University students are already paying tens of thousands of dollars to attend a private university, which is a high risk setting for contracting the virus seeing as students are living in close quarters. Fairfield should be responsible for taking the brunt of the cost for housing students with COVID-19.
Luiza Sperling, a sophomore who recently tested positive states, “I believe that the school is charging a ridiculous amount of money because they know that the students aren’t going to want to stay on campus for that cost.” While providing the option of on-campus isolation housing for COVID-19 positive students shows Fairfield does seemingly care about the students, requesting roughly $1,000 dollars for a full isolation stay on-campus, on top of tuition, seems like a money grab.
I understand that the booster clinics, as well as biweekly oncampus testing, is an expense for Fairfield and they need to make the money back, but those who test positive and elect to stay on-campus do not even have the opportunity to Zoom into classes. Many professors rightfully have strict attendance policies, which are made even more difficult for students as University officials have allegedly stated to professors that Zooming in sick students is discouraged.
After charging students $200 a night for the ‘luxury’ to stay on campus during isolation, students are not afforded the option to attend the classes that they spend thousands of dollars to enroll in. Again, it is completely unreasonable to charge so much for isolation housing so COVID-19 positive students do not wander freely around campus.
Fairfield neglects to realize that besides the fee of housing, families are still paying the cost for their student losing five days of classes, five days of fulfilling meals, five days of comfortable housing that are included in our tuition. Currently, students are cleared to come back to campus after five days from the positive test, so long as they do not have any symptoms. This being said, students who remain symptomatic run the risk of missing up to ten days total, creating a large burden on them. Having to weigh the isolation price tag of up to $1,800 versus the possibility of bringing the virus home to our families is not something Fairfield should be making their students do.
Sophomore student Joseph Westhoff states, “I wouldn’t want to put my family at risk of getting it especially since my dad works for the New York City Fire Department- it would be putting his whole firehouse at risk.” By choosing to keep his father safe, Westhoff would be losing $1,000 on top of five days of classes if he contracted COVID-19.
I, like other students, believe that Fairfield University is accidentally incentivising students to not test for COVID-19, even if mild symptoms are present, or to report a positive test from fellow peers. Many news articles have stated that typical college age students are not at risk for hospitalization and symptoms are similar to that of the common cold, so the losses sustained by isolating are much worse than the losses by not testing. As of the fall semester, 93.8 percent of students on campus are vaccinated, meaning we are less likely to suffer severe symptoms, on top of the fact that being college students we are less likely to be at high risk.
The chance of a COVID-19 positive student attending class is higher, as well as the rate of transmission on campus, because asymptomatic students are in our classes, as well as students who are electing not to get tested when mildly symptomatic. Myself, like some of my fellow peers, feel a moral obligation to get tested when symptomatic, but I am certain many of those who have weighed the options closely decided that missing classes for five days is not worth testing or reporting symptoms.
By not allowing Zoom options for COVID-19 positive students, in addition to the $200 per night fee for isolation housing, Fairfield University has proven that the money they make from a COVID-19 positive student outweighs their care for ill students and their families.