As cases of COVID-19 at the University are spiking, quarantine housing is at more than 50% capacity and a recent stay-at-home order was implemented by the county, freshmen living in dorms continue to adjust to college life during a public health crisis.
Cases have been increasing in almost every residence hall across the University. At Mary Markley Residence Hall, a spike in cases prompted the University to require the entire dorm to be tested, but this didn’t slow the outbreak.
“I think the crazy part was that with the pop up test in Markley, there was actually a majority of people who didn’t get tested, which is why I think cases are still going up,” LSA freshman Chloe Jeanmonod, a resident of Markley, said. “So now they’re fully making it mandatory and if those people don’t get tested within the next five days, their housing contract will be terminated.”
Markley is on lockdown in an attempt to contain the outbreak. Students are “expected to follow enhanced social distancing for the next 14 days” and instructed to “only leave your room when necessary to obtain food, use the bathroom, or in the case of emergency,” according to a notice sent out by the Department of Environment, Health & Safety on Oct. 17.
Some students said they feel these enhanced restrictions are not going to make a difference. Engineering freshman Sam Sugarman, who lives at Markley, feels that there is no practical or realistic way to enforce these guidelines.
“Why can’t students just say, ‘oh, I’m going to get food at Mojo’ and not stay out for the night and come back?” Sugarman said. “There’s just no way to enforce a thousand kids when there’s like 70 entrances. I don’t think the guidelines are being followed. Everyone’s going over to each other’s rooms.”
Sugarman said he feels unsafe living in Markley.
“I know I can control where or when I’m going somewhere and if I wear my mask, but at the same time, I know when people go to the bathrooms they can’t wear their mask when they shave or brush their teeth,” Sugarman said. “Everyone’s sharing the same bathroom and no one’s going to wear a mask when they’re showering. It can still be spread in a variety of ways —even with the enhanced guidelines.”
Nearly all dorms have reported cases of COVID-19. LSA freshman Ripley Block Newman lives in South Quad and said people don’t have to hide their bad behavior to get away with it.
“I know a lot of people on my floor have been going to frats, just through seeing it on social media and stuff,” Block Newman said. “I think at the beginning people kind of tried to hide it because they didn’t know if they’d be shamed for disobeying the rules. I think people got lazy and no one really cares anymore.”
LSA freshman Eliana Kraut said she’s observing similar behavior in South Quad.
“I’m witnessing a lot of people still going out and eating or drinking wherever they would like,” Kraut said. “Some people are being a little less cautious about going into other people’s rooms.”
Many freshmen said that after losing the end of their senior years to the pandemic, they hoped college would be a time to socialize even if it came into conflict with public health guidelines.
LSA freshman Skyler Edinburg lives in West Quad and said she knows that people are going to parties. She said it can be difficult to meet people without sacrificing some precautions.
“It’s hard … you’ll sort of have friends in your room and I guess you’re not really supposed to do that, but it’s just sort of the only way to socialize,” Edinburg said. “Some people are going out and going out to parties and stuff like that.”
Block Newman said the rules have begun to affect her friendships.
“There were a lot of friendships that kind of got broken once I realized I can’t hang out with you, because I might get sick,” Block Newman said.
Kraut expressed a similar sentiment, saying people have differing ideas about what is safe and what is not.
“I know some people in the dorm are really struggling with finding friends who they feel agree with them when it comes to how safe they should be,” Kraut said.
East Quad has had fewer COVID-19 cases than other dorms. However, some residents said strictly adhering to the guidelines might not be enough as cases have become even more widespread.
“None of my friends have ever been to any frat parties or anything. So it was really surprising when we tested positive because we didn’t really know how it spread to us,” LSA freshman Rachel Swartz, a resident of East Quad, said. “We were just in our dorm room hanging out with each other. I guess it must have been a random exposure.”
Students also feel that there is more the University could be doing to keep them safe. Both Jeanmonod and Sugarman said they’d like to see more detailed information released regarding positive COVID-19 tests.
“I know for sure that the reporting of cases to the students is always vague,” Sugarman said. “They always say the fifth floor or the first floor, instead of your next door neighbor or down your hall.”
Jeanmonod agreed, saying she’d also like to receive information about positive cases faster.
“Sometimes I feel like information is provided to us a little late,” Jeanmonod said. “I know that when we had cases on our floor, we were aware of it just because we had talked amongst us. They didn’t get an email out until a couple days later.”
Kraut said she would like to see the University support students’ mental wellbeing. Many students have reported a decline in their overall mental health due to the pandemic this semester.
“I have not seen a lot of measures when it comes to mental health,” Kraut said.,” Kraut said. ““I’ve seen a lot of physical distancing signs and warning guidelines, but I have not seen a lot when it comes to how they’re helping the students. I kind of wish that they put more effort on people’s mental health because when you’re asking people to stay in one place for two weeks or longer that’s a big toll on their lives.”
Edinburg said that due to the rise in cases and lack of universal testing, she will be moving home this weekend
“I definitely think the University could have handled it better,” Edinburg said. “A universal testing program would be much more beneficial. I know a lot of cases where people have COVID and they haven’t even reported it to the university, like they just go to hotels and they don’t go into quarantine housing.”
Sugarman said after a spring of isolation, he was not surprised that this was the outcome of bringing students to campus.
“Take 10,000 high school seniors that have been locked up in their houses for six or seven months and put them together on a campus where they expected to have fun, take away a lot of their outdoor or indoor intramurals and activities and the story writes itself,” Sugarman said.
Daily Staff Reporter Jared Dougall can be reached at email@example.com