By Aleksandra Sidorova
The Student Health and Counseling Center has been grappling with an influx of COVID-19 tests, as it has recorded 115 student cases as of Sept. 11. The numbers have since gone up, though attempts to get recent information were unsuccessful.
Licensed Practical Nurse Monica Lattrell said the center is “extremely busy” handling the rise in COVID cases in addition to its usual appointments for other medical issues and mental health counseling.
Assistant Director Michelle Trombley said that as of Tuesday, Sept. 19, four non-student campus employees have reported having COVID.
From one person to “everyone,” students know someone who has contracted COVID.
Jojo Clarke, a senior psychology major, said she noticed a number of first-years getting sick. Emily Raphael, a first-year majoring in physics, agreed — eight people in her year had COVID this semester or still have it. Clarke explained it is due to a change in environment and being new to the campus community.
“They’re out in the wild for the first time,” Clarke said. “But also, you have to remember that this is their first year here. They’re not used to this environment, so their bodies are now just adjusting.”
Some students take their own precautions.
“I take my mask, I lift it up and I drink my ginger tea,” Raphael said. “And I get tested.”
Henry Hebb, a sophomore geology major, said he has been washing his hands more frequently.
While the college requires students who test positive to isolate, there is no requirement to report a positive COVID test to any department. If students report their test to the Health Center, Lattrell said, it can help them be excused from classes. They can also get over-the-counter medication to help relieve symptoms. Samiya Watkins, a senior psychology major, noted that students can refrain from testing to avoid quarantine.
“I just wish that it was mandatory for you to report it, because now that you don’t have to, you can be walking right next to someone with COVID, and the whole time they think it’s just a cough or the flu,” Clarke said.
Clarke suggested bringing back the community pool testing, as practiced in the 2021-2022 academic year. Clarke, Raphael and Watkins all said they are against going back to masking and online learning.
“I think that was really a bad time for us,” Clarke said. “I would much rather everyone be cautious and aware of themselves — that way you can be cautious and aware of people around you.”
Lattrell said the students have been “very responsible,” noting that students test “quite often” and concern themselves with testing after exposure to COVID. As of Sept. 11, the Health Center had gone through nearly 400 tests.
Watkins and Raphael said they had no trust that the people around them would test for COVID.
“At the same time, I feel like once you feel like your body is shutting down or in a bad place, hopefully you will go to the Health Center, just to make sure,” Raphael said.
The trust that Hebb and sophomore geology major Emmaline Bennett extend to the community depends on the group. Bennett said “you can’t really stop” students from attending parties — hotspots for disease transmission.
To Clarke, the rise in COVID cases is solely an issue of students’ wellbeing, with no effect on learning.
“We’re in a new age,” Clarke said. “You can always ask your teacher for a recorded Zoom or something like that, or try to get your notes from someone else.”
The Health Center recommends that students receive the new booster shot, which the Food and Drug Administration approved Sept. 11. Lattrell explained that people who get booster shots tend to experience milder symptoms.