Many colleges throughout the United States returned back this fall in hopes of being able to hold their classes in person and allow students to get a residential experience. The goal of keeping the students safe while allowing them to live and learn on campuses across the country did not last very long.
Despite all the guidelines schools put into place to prevent the spread of COVID-19 on their campuses, many students did not follow these procedures, which caused schools to send students home only a few weeks into the year. On the other hand, some colleges developed few guidelines and did not have any plans to test or trace cases of COVID-19. Some of them are reversing course and going to remote education, but others are continuing to stay open despite increasing case numbers.
An example of this is the University of Alabama. Between the week of August 28 and September 3, the University of Alabama reported 846 more cases of Coronavirus, which brings their total 1,900 cases.
“COVID-19 testing is provided for University of Alabama students who are experiencing virus symptoms or who might have been exposed to the virus,” their website states.“Exposure means being within six feet of someone who might have COVID-19 for more than 15 minutes and with either person not wearing a face mask.”
Unlike Merrimack College, where everyone gets tested weekly regardless of symptoms, testing at Alabama only occurs when someone is in contact with someone who tests positive or if symptoms are present.
Another campus with a high positive infection rate is the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. The students only made it a week into classes before they received the news of 135 new Coronavirus cases on campus.
This change in their rate of positive tests from 2.8 percent to 13.6 percent left the school with no other option than to send their students home for the remainder of the semester and continue learning remotely from home.
North Carolina did not require students to be tested upon arrival on campus and had no mandatory testing plan in place for students while they were on campus. Similarly to the University of Alabama, students were only tested if they requested a test to be done due to symptoms or exposure of someone testing positive.
A trend that is seen in colleges where students are testing positive is that they are typically bigger campuses where it is harder to keep track of students and what they are doing.
In contrast to what has been seen at many other schools in the U.S., Merrimack has been seeing a very positive outcome for the student body so far.
In an email sent out by President Hoepy on Tuesday, September 1, he said over the 10,000 tests administered since returning to school, there were only four positive cases identified. This gives the school a positive test rate of .04 percent.
These numbers have stayed low over the course of the past two weeks due to the guidelines that Merrimack put into place to keep students safe.
One guideline that Merrimack has in place that differs from both Alabama and North Carolina is that they have required weekly testing for all students, faculty, and staff. Each student has a set testing date each week that they are required to attend. If they do not attend then the school is notified and the student is contacted. So far, this has worked well for the college to reduce the number of cases by knowing who has it and being able to contract trace back who they have been in contact with. The college currently boasts a 98 percent compliance rate for weekly testing.
Each campus around the United States has their own protocols and procedures in order to keep students safe on campus. Whether or not these procedures are followed by the students is up to them to decide. If students chose to disobey these policies then they may be sent home and not able to attend in-person classes.