By: Elizabeth Pruitt
Spring Arbor – After weeks of keeping the virus at a low rate, Spring Arbor University has seen an influx of positive COVID-19 cases since early October. On October 12, the SAU community was notified through an email that three student-athletes had tested positive for the virus. As of October 17, 29 students and 2 staff had tested positive and were in isolation and 172 students and 9 personnel were in quarantine. 35 of those students quarantined on campus and the rest quarantined at home.
One of these students in quarantine was junior Emma Hale. Hale, an art major at SAU, was forced to move into SAU quarantine housing after being in close contact with her roommate, who had tested positive for the virus.
Hale was placed in quarantine due to contact tracing. Because the initial positive students were part of an athletic team, contact tracing was easy. There were a few students who were not members of an athletic team who had come in contact with a positive student or faculty, and this is where the contact tracing becomes more difficult.
According to Corey Ross, Vice President for Student Development and Success and Chair of the Coronavirus Planning time, contact tracing looks at who the COVID positive person has been in close contact with since 48 hours before they show symptoms. Close contact has been defined by the CDC as being with a person for 15 minutes, either consecutively or cumulatively. Class schedules, practice and game schedules, and the QR code scannings have been helpful to aide the process of contact tracing.
“Basically you look back at 48 before the student was symptomatic. If they were symptomatic on Wednesday and didn’t get the test until Thursday because they didn’t think it was a big deal, and we get the results Friday. Then we find out they’re positive so we’re going all the way back to Monday. It’s hard for people to remember what they were doing, who they were with, when they weren’t even thinking about it,” Ross said.
Once contact tracing is complete, students are moved into their designated quarantine housing as quickly as possible.
“I was notified Wednesday, October 7th that I needed to quarantine, I got a call from Holton Health while I was at work at the library. They told me I needed to return to my dorm immediately and start packing,” said Hale.
Quarantine housing on campus started as just two of the Villages not currently inhabited by students. Due to the increase in cases, Delta 1 in Lowell Hall was added. If there is an influx in cases again and more housing is needed, Michindoh Conference Center, located in Hillsdale, Michigan about 35 minutes away, is being looked at as another option.
Two hours after being notified, Hale had packed her things and moved into one of the villages, where she would remain for the next two weeks. Hale said the experience was lonely and difficult. Ross said the Student Development Staff, University Chaplain Brian Kono, and the counselors of Holton Health have reached out to students to make sure they were doing well physically, spiritually, and mentally.
While in quarantine, students are delivered meals and snacks and must attend all classes virtually. For some, like Hale, virtual classes are not ideal.
“I had very little motivation for schoolwork. I attended all my zoom classes and did the minimal amount of work, but online school is really not my thing,” said Hale.
Being alone for two weeks can be a blessing or a curse for some people. Hale said her quarantine experience was mainly just about survival. She tried to find things to do to occupy her time and make her experience more enjoyable.
“The best part of the day was when they brought us our food packages and my roommate and I, who was quarantined in the room across from me, propped open our doors and had a little picnic together. Overall, it was just not the ideal situation and I was just trying to make it through. I did however have more free time to draw, so that was nice,” Hale said.
SAU’s quarantine efforts have helped slow the spread of COVID on campus. As of Friday, October 23, there are 14 COVID positive students and 150 in quarantine. If there are no new positive cases, Ross has said there should be only 84 students in quarantine on October 26, and 7 or 8 students in quarantine on October 28.
Things are looking up for SAU in terms of COVID-19. Students and staff should not be discouraged by the recent influx of COVID cases. However, students and staff should stay diligent with social distancing, wearing their masks, and washing their hands, to prevent another spread.
Students, faculty, and staff are encouraged to continue practicing the SAU Safe 8, which consists of baseline testing, completing a daily health screening, social distancing, limiting large gatherings, wearing face coverings in outdoor and public spaces, attendance tracking, practicing hand and respiratory hygiene, and enhanced cleaning.