COVID-19 positive students denounce updated protocol
Students who contracted COVID-19 this semester feel ‘frustrated’ with college laxity COVID Policiesspecifically citing the isolation-in-place model that impacted how they experienced isolation.
Following the end of the Spring 2022 semester, Emerson updated its COVID-19 procedures on May 16. The college shifted to a symptom-only testing method, shifted to an “in-place isolation model” for positive cases, and dropped the mask mandate in nearly all spaces on campus except for the center of Emerson wellness where masks are still required.
policy change, announced in April by Associate Vice President for Campus Life, Erik Muurisepp, cited declining local cases and consultation with Tufts Medical Center and the Boston Public Health Commission as reasons for the updated protocol.
While politicians would have “well done” over the summer, students who tested positive this fall are speaking out against the college’s approach to containing COVID-19 cases after experiencing a period of unnecessary isolation.
“Self-isolating under Emerson’s new COVID protocols was overall very frustrating,” said Amya Diggs, a sophomore journalism student who contracted COVID in early September. “I don’t think the school takes COVID as seriously as [it] should.”
Diggs said she tested positive shortly after her roommate, Molly Howard, a sophomore in theater and performance, received a positive test result on September 9. The two housemates self-isolated in their Piano Row residence dorm for five days in accordance with Emerson’s policy and CDC Recommendations.
Under the college’s “isolated-in-place” model, a roommate of a positive student has the option of staying in the room or seeking alternate accommodations. “at their expense”. For Diggs, this method of isolation was “unnecessary” and she believes she exposed her to exposure.
In an attempt to limit her contact with Howard, Diggs said she initially moved her mattress to the common area of her suite. When she tested positive, she returned to her room and isolated herself with Howard to keep her distance from her other roommates.
“Making room for COVID-positive students with their COVID-[negative] roommates makes no sense,” Diggs said. “I’m convinced the only reason I got COVID is because my roommate had it and passed it on to me.”
Howard shared the same troubles as Diggs with her isolation experience and the risks of the changed policy, and was also concerned about potential exposure and sharing living space with her roommate after contracting the virus.
“I felt completely abandoned by the college and [its] new policies,” Howard said. “[Emerson] provided me and my roommate with no support.
Additionally, the “Isolation in Place” policy guidelines state that COVID-positive students must self-isolate in their assigned living spaces or are “strongly encouraged” to return home or take other living arrangements. That college encouragement was out of reach for Howard, who is not local to the area and was “unable” to rent a hotel room for 10 days in downtown Boston.
Diggs and Howard’s disappointments with the college’s relaxed isolation measures were also mounted with the instructions to leave their rooms to get food. Students isolated in place on campus are allowed to go and perform “necessary tasks” such as picking up food in take-out containers from food services.
Howard said she was still contagious when she left her room to get meals, but while it was “uncomfortable” she had no alternative.
“I met several friends while I was still fully contagious who knew I was sick and I could sense how uncomfortable they were,” Howard said. “I had no other choice.”
Diggs said she also felt uncomfortable leaving her room to get food.
“I was terrified of making other people sick, especially since most students on campus don’t wear masks,” she said.
For Mike Riso, a young theater and performance student who tested positive for COVID on September 25, the most frustrating part of isolation was missing classes.
“I wish there was a little more understanding promoted among staff around courses missing due to COVID,” he said. “As far as I’ve been told, it’s treated like any other unexcused absence, which I find quite reductive.”
Emerson’s symptomatic testing policy has shifted from its previous testing strategy of mandatory weekly COVID tests. Students should report positive test results by completing the COVID-19 self-declaration form.
Diggs said the new testing policy, above other changes, was a show of ignorance by Emerson.
“There’s no way everyone is going out of their way to get tested for COVID when they don’t have to,” she said.
At the faculty assembly on September 29, the administration asked the faculty to submit a record of students who have declared themselves to be positive for COVID via the Share a concern portalan anonymous person familiar with the matter told The Beacon.
“I take this as a sign that the college has no idea how many students are infected and no idea the COVID positivity rate,” the source said.
As the college continues to monitor the current state of the pandemic and still follows CDC guidelines, students believe a stronger COVID response is needed to limit the spread of the virus.
“The lack of tests for students and the holding [the Emerson community] responsible concerns me for future outbreaks,” Howard said.