QU no longer tracking COVID cases on campus as cases rise in CT

Cat Murphy, Staff Writer

Quinnipiac University students and faculty members are voicing concerns about the university’s response to a recent spike in COVID cases in Connecticut.

COVID cases in New Haven County, which encompasses Hamden and Quinnipiac, increased by 12.42% between Sept. 15 and 21, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Although CDC data reveals that COVID cases in the county subsequently declined by 5.72% between Sept. 19 and 25, Dr. Ulysses Wu, the chief epidemiologist at Hartford HealthCare, Quinnipiac’s health services partner, said cases in the area will likely continue to increase in the coming months.

“There will likely be another spike in cases once the weather gets colder,” Wu wrote in a statement to the Chronicle on Sept. 16.

However, Quinnipiac no longer monitors COVID case rates on campus, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said.

“We do not have data on case rates because we are not conducting recurring surveillance testing and most tests are self-administered rapid tests,” Morgan wrote in an email to the Chronicle on Sept. 15.

The university also no longer conducts contact tracing. Instead, students, faculty and staff who test positive for the virus are responsible for notifying anyone with whom they spent 15 minutes or more at a distance of less than six feet in the 24 hours prior to their test result, according to a Sept. 14 email to the Quinnipiac community.

Some students voiced surprise with the university’s lack of monitoring.

“I’m just surprised that they’re not tracking it since the past two years, they’ve definitely been on it,” said Qiana Torres, a junior sociology and interdisciplinary studies double major.

Residential students who test positive for COVID are required to travel home to isolate themselves if they live in the region, according to the university’s fall 2022 isolation protocols. Students who live beyond a three-hour drive of campus are allowed to quarantine in on-campus isolation dorms. 

Ashley Winfield, a junior psychology major, said she experienced issues with the university’s isolation procedures after testing positive for the virus on Sept. 26.

Winfield lives in Connecticut, but her immunocompromised father’s pre-existing health conditions prevented her from going home to isolate.

Although Winfield eventually received a quarantine dorm, she said the university did not initially seem to consider her situation an “extenuating circumstance.”

“Everyone that I contacted…and explained my situation to didn’t seem to care about my health or my father’s health, and never mind other students at Quinnipiac’s health,” Winfield wrote in a statement to the Chronicle. “I had to fight with Quinnipiac for 5 hours to get a quarantine room when they weren’t even all filled up.”

Although the university does not track test results, COVID testing is available by appointment at Student Health Services. Students can also obtain free at-home COVID test kits from the vending machine located in the old Student Health Center building.

“Quinnipiac University continues to follow COVID mitigation strategies based on community and public health guidelines to protect the health of our university community,” said Chief of Public Safety Tony Reyes, the chair of the university’s COVID Task Force, in a statement to the Chronicle on Sept. 26.

However, students can obtain a maximum of three tests from the vending machine. Alice Mahon, a senior theater major, expressed frustration with the limited quantity of COVID tests available to students, saying that three tests only got her “through two weeks of the semester.”

“I was just recently exposed this week,” Mahon wrote in a statement to the Chronicle . “Why am I being told that I can’t test at the health center? What are they there for?”

Although Wu advises symptomatic individuals to test themselves for COVID, he does not currently advise individuals without symptoms to test regularly. Rather, Wu recommended implementing preventative measures, such as indoor masking, vaccines and self-isolation, to prevent the spread of the virus.

Quinnipiac loosened its indoor masking policies in July. Despite the recent uptick in COVID cases across New Haven County, students, faculty and staff are no longer required to wear masks in classrooms.

The university also asks students to respect requests from faculty and staff to wear masks in classrooms or individual meeting spaces.

However, Mahon said students often disregard these requests.

“Many of my professors who request that their students wear masks for their meeting times, even for just (an) hour, are ignored, and even laughed at,” Mahon wrote.

The Quinnipiac community received updates on the university’s COVID protocols via email on Sept. 1 and Sept. 14. The emails provide information and resources on the university’s current masking policies, testing resources and isolation protocols.

The university issued these updates “to ensure everyone remains aware of, and vigilant with, our COVID protocols and resources,” Morgan wrote.

Some students expressed having few concerns about COVID.

Gabriel Lewis, a first-year biology major, called the virus “benign.”

“I really don’t think it’s that big of a deal at this point,” Lewis said. “It’s more just like a flu

at the moment.”

However, other students expressed frustration with the university’s underwhelming response to

the uptick in cases.

“Personally, I think there could be a lot more done by the university to handle this recent spike in cases,” Mahon wrote.

Mahon said she feels the coronavirus has become “a joke among the students.”

“Frankly, I am appalled by the lack of concern for the general public,” Mahon wrote. “(Students) do not feel heard, and most importantly, we do not feel safe.”

Update: Sept. 29
Morgan said the university requests students who test positive for COVID to notify Student Health Services.