Safety shouldn’t be exclusive to students

Chartwells employees deserve COVID-19 tests as much as anyone else

Ashley Pelletier , Arts & Life Editor

In the past few years, there have been countless articles written about Quinnipiac Dining under Chartwells. However, in the age of COVID-19, holding the organization that runs our dining halls accountable is more important than ever.

Chartwells employees should receive COVID-19 tests to protect themselves and the people around them. (Emily DiSalvo/Chronicle)

While there has been a collective conversation about whether or not faculty and staff should be tested, I think that we have largely forgotten that the people working in the dining halls may have an even greater impact on the public health of the Quinnipiac community. If you don’t have a kitchen in your dorm or just don’t have the energy to cook, odds are you are getting a majority of your food from dining halls, where food is prepared by many different employees in the same space.

Don’t get me wrong, I really appreciate everything that the dining hall workers do for us, but Chartwells is neglecting the safety of its employees and the overarching Quinnipiac community. It should be testing its employees just as much or even more than the student body.

With the announcement of a Chartwells employee testing positive for COVID-19 after working in the York Hill Dining Hall, it has become quite apparent that we need Chartwells to be more transparent about its operations. It also needs to regularly test its employees for COVID-19.

The email sent to the Quinnipiac community claimed that the employee that tested positive did not have contact with any students and had very limited contact with other employees, but that does not mean that they couldn’t have spread COVID-19 or that nobody is at risk of catching it themselves. This is exactly why dining hall employees should be tested the same way we are.

A large portion of the student body is tested every week, and the punishment for skipping testing can be as severe as being suspended. With that much pressure being put on students, why isn’t Chartwells held to the same standards? The university seems to forget that while students spend most or all of their time on campus, they are certainly not the only people who are present on a day-to-day basis.

There are so many Chartwells employees who work hard to make sure that Quinnipiac students have access to good food. They deserve the same peace of mind and protection that students receive.

At the University of Akron in Akron, Ohio, dining halls were shut down for deep cleaning when two employees tested positive for COVID-19. In Quinnipiac’s case, no such thing has happened in order to fully prevent the spread of the virus in the busiest building on the York Hill campus. Other dining hall workers are being put at risk by a lack of systematic testing.

While QU Dining has committed to closing down both main dining halls for cleaning at specified times during the day, that is not all that must be done to protect our community. We must do our part to keep ourselves and the people who make our food safe.

The easiest way to defend our community is to order through the Boost Mobile app. For the most part, Boost is a way to get food from the dining hall without worrying about close contact with dining hall staff. Unfortunately, there aren’t always a lot of options through Boost, but it is a safer option than directly interacting with the people making your food.

Another way to increase the community’s safety is to buy from the Bobcat Den or York Hill convenience stores. If you have a kitchen in your dorm, buying groceries from the convenience store is a great way to limit your contacts in the dining hall. Plus, it is so much more fulfilling when you make your own food in the way you want it.

When it comes down to it, remember that Chartwells employees are just as, if not more, concerned about COVID-19 as Quinnipiac students are. They are essential employees who have to support themselves and their families. Chartwells should be making it easier for its employees to take care of themselves, and a huge part of that is regular testing.

Widespread testing would provide peace of mind, not just for the employees being tested, but for the community as a whole. It is known that there can be asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19, and I know I think about that whenever I leave my dorm room. I am sure I’m not the only one who does.

We can all agree that we want to stay on campus for the remainder of the semester. In order to do that, we have to work together and advocate for safer community practices. Obviously that includes social distancing and wearing masks, but it should also mean regular, cheap testing for all faculty, staff and employees who work on Quinnipiac’s campuses.