UConn must fix residential COVID-19 policies 

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A stack of face masks. The university’s policy on masking has remained the same since the end of last semester. Photo by Mika Baumeister/Unsplash

As students return to the University of Connecticut for the Fall 2022 semester, the university has announced its COVID-19 policies regarding testing, masking and isolation and quarantine procedures.  

Outlined by both Student Health and Wellness’s website and Residential Life’s Temporary Health and Safety Procedures, the university’s stance on masking indoors has remained unchanged from the end of last semester. And although testing is completely voluntary, students are still able to receive at-home rapid tests, either by mail or pick-up at the Student Union. 

Additionally, the university has presented a new procedure for isolation. On-campus students who test positive are no longer being offered the option to isolate in Mansfield Apartments. Instead, they must either remain in their dorms for five days, or return home for the same duration of time. As for the roommates of these students, their options are as follows:  

Option one proposes that roommates remain in the room for the duration of their roommate’s isolation period. Given the prevalence of COVID-19 and its many variants, as well as the lack of concrete research into the effects of “long COVID,” we are astonished that the university is even marketing this as an option for students. Asking students to continue living with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is no option at all. Those who are immunocompromised, struggle with mental health issues relating to health (hypochondria, OCD and anxiety are among the many mental illnesses exacerbated by the presence of illnesses) or simply do not want to be exposed to COVID-19 should never be asked to remain in close contact with infected students.  

Furthermore, such an approach is antithetical to the university’s previous policies. In previous semesters, “family units” – defined as “groups of individuals living in close proximity to one another within university residence halls” in an email from the Dean of Students sent in July 2020 – were often referenced as the groups on-campus students are responsible for protecting. Yet, now students are being told they may remain in their on-campus spaces, and can continue using the bathrooms they share with their family units, potentially exposing one’s floormates and Resident Assistants to COVID-19. In addition to this being a direct contradiction to the university’s previous policy, it puts a larger group of students at risk for getting sick. 

Option two asks students to travel home. This both puts the families of students exposed to COVID-19 at risk, and relies on the classist assumption that all students are able to travel home during the semester. Distance, access to a vehicle and financial circumstances all impact the decision as to whether one can travel home and stay for 10 days — an impossibility for unhoused students at UConn. This option cannot be revered as a just solution for the entirety of the student body.  

Option three offers students the opportunity to move to Mansfield Apartments while their roommate isolates in their room. Students who are unable to rely on options one and two will be forced to relocate for the duration of their roommates quarantine period, though it’s uncertain whether the university will provide transportation services, meaning students whose roommates test positive may must either walk to their isolation housing assignment – carrying with them laundry, school supplies and other necessities – or make use of a university shuttle and potentially expose an even greater amount of students to COVID-19.  

With this in mind, asking students who are not COVID-19-positive to uproot their lives and relocate to a significantly less-accessible part of campus – Mansfield Apartments are further from academic buildings and dining halls than on-campus residence halls – serves as an unjust consequence to someone who has not tested positive, and places the repercussions of a positive test onto students who have not yet tested positive. Students should not be asked to relocate to mitigate the effects of their roommate’s positive test, and we worry that the inconvenience of this option will lead students to remain in their dorm, placing students and anyone they interact with in harm’s way.  

These policies pose a severe public health threat to the UConn student body. The Daily Campus Editorial Board struggles to understand how this protocol will mitigate the effects of COVID-19, and is actively worried that such policies will result in a significant spike in cases. UConn cannot operate under the philosophy that if one student tests positive, their roommate likely will as well, and until the university offers a more equitable approach to the ongoing pandemic, The Daily Campus will continue to voice our concerns regarding the discriminatory shortcomings of the university’s COVID-19 procedures.

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