This academic year, students were required to be vaccinated to return to school. However, exemptions were taken into consideration for those who would be fully remote and for health or religious purposes. Although uncommon, with a student vaccination rate of about 96%, unvaccinated students have been approved for the semester.
Evaluated by Student Support Services, not every request is approved.
“If you are on campus and you’ve been given an exception, it is mandatory that you attend weekly testing,” said President Alexander Enyedi.
Unlike last year, this year only those who are unvaccinated require regular testing.
For those who are vaccinated, but have been in contact with someone who is positive, it is no longer necessary to quarantine. However, students must get tested if they notice symptoms.
Last year, a vaccine for COVID-19 was something hoped and wished for by many students on campus. Cases dipped and spiked throughout last fall semester, with over 85 students testing positive over a two week period at one point. Now, over a month into the semester, positivity rates have stayed significantly lower in comparison to last year’s trends. While being vaccinated does provide greater protection from the virus, it does not give complete immunity.
COVID-19 policies have been created by a team of campus staff and faculty. This includes the vice presidents of academic affairs and student and enrollment success, as well as the academic deans, Dr. Kathleen Camelo, Chief Patrick Rascoe, and the emergency health and safety group.
Vaccinated or not, the health center is available for testing.
“If you come to the Health Center for any type of illness, COVID-19 is ruled out first, even if you think you just have an ear infection,” Health Center nurse Monica Lattrell said.
However, if a student is nonsymptomatic, they cannot take a rapid test. Fortunately, there are many available options for testing in Plattsburgh outside of the Health Center. For free tests, students can go to Clinton County Health Department, Kinney Drugs and Walgreens, but Champlain Family Health will bill your insurance or expenses out of pocket.
One student, senior nursing major Darcy Doelger, did not have an easy time obtaining her COVID-19 test. When Doelger began feeling ill, she wanted to get tested in order to keep others safe. After calling the Health Center and confirming her ability to get rapid tested, she went in and was told that “everyone is coming in with these symptoms and to take an allergy pack.” After asking for a rapid test yet again, she was assured that there had been no positive tests for a few days.
“I wasn’t sure why that was important but I took the allergy pack and left,” Doelger said.
Symptomatic with a cough, runny nose, sinus pressure and watery eyes, getting a test should have been the first step according to the Health Center’s previously stated protocol. Later that day, when Doelger was eating at Panera, she realized her smell and taste were also gone.
Before going back to the Health Center, Doeleger checked pharmacies in Plattsburgh for an appointment and even considered traveling over two hours to get a rapid, “but why would I do that when the health center of my school gives them,” Doeleger said.
Returning to the Health Center and explaining the new development, she was again told it could be because she was congested.
“Maybe you’re right, but give me a rapid and you can say I told you so,” Doleger said to the nurse. The test was negative.
Doleger was not left with a good impression of the Health Center.
“It felt more that they didn’t want me to be a positive, not because they were worried for me, but because it would be another number to report to the State,” she said.
Enyedi expressed that “I have not heard of anyone being denied,” as that is not the standard protocol at the time. This aligns with statements from the health center, as Latrell made mention that there has been an uptick in testing requests.
“We are testing a lot because there are a lot of colds going around currently, but not many positives,” Latrell said.