This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 6, dated Nov. 17, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.
During the summer of 2021, Whittier College announced that campus would be reopened for the 2021 – 22 Academic School year, and, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, students would see changes on campus. In order to keep up with the regulations mandated by L.A. County, Whittier College formed the COVID-19 Compliance Task Force, whose sole purpose is “to assess the College’s risk, guide policy development, and to ensure consistent messaging and coordinated institutional response to campus concerns and possible outbreaks of COVID-19.” While Whittier currently has a 97 percent vaccination rate amongst students and 93 percent amongst faculty and staff, students cannot help but wonder what happens when a student tests positive for COVID-19.
Information regarding the quarantine process can be found on the Whittier College website, and was communicated to students via email on Sept. 10. The College had two quarantine policies: Isolation and Quarantine. Per the email sent on Sept. 10, the College defined an individual in isolation as “someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 regardless of whether they experience symptoms. Individuals [residential and commuter students] experiencing symptoms related to COVID-19 will be restricted from campus and required to follow Home Isolation instructions for 10 days from symptom onset or test date, whichever is earlier.” The guidelines for an individual placed in quarantine is defined as “someone who has been exposed on or off-campus to an individual who tested positive for COVID-19.” There are two levels of quarantine depending on the vaccination status of the exposed individual: “Modified Quarantine is an L.A. County Department of Public Health requirement exclusively for students at Institutes of Higher Education. Fully vaccinated students are placed in Modified Quarantine. Exempt or partially vaccinated students are placed in Full Quarantine.”
Interim Vice President and Dean of Students Deanna Merino-Contino stated, “Students in Modified Quarantine should remain in their residence except to attend on-campus classes and academic activities, if they are consistently and correctly masked and remain asymptomatic. They are not allowed to participate in on or off-campus social activities until they receive a negative test result 3 to 5 days after exposure or have completed modified quarantine for the full 10 days. This includes attending or playing in sporting events, team practices and training, or competitions. While in modified quarantine, the student should not attend work either on- or off-campus, nor go to any indoor public or community setting that is off-campus, such as restaurants, bars, markets, and offices among others, nor attend any outdoor gathering off-campus.”
As far as what happens when a student tests positive for COVID-19, and for unvaccinated students exposed to an individual who tested positive, this information has not been communicated to students in depth. Lisa Newton stated, “Students are assigned to isolation if they self-report a positive COVID-19 test result or test positive during mandatory surveillance testing. Positive cases are required to isolate for at least 10 days whether they are vaccinated or not and whether they are symptomatic or not.” Students who report a positive COVID-19 case are contacted by the Health Center as well as Residential Life in order to place them in the isolation building, normally known as the Campbell Residence Hall.
Students who have been placed into Isolation have stated that they felt that the school did a good job of communicating the process of moving into their isolation rooms, but acknowledge that the timing of the communication is an issue. “The school actually did a really good job at communicating that I was going to be moved into modified quarantine. I first went into modified quarantine because there was a confirmed COVID case in one of my classes and I immediately got an email saying what would happen with where I could go and my meal plan,” second-year William Shrigley said. “However, the email was sent at the end of the day, so even if I did have COVID, everyone I went to dinner with could’ve been exposed before.”
Whittier has also accommodated students in isolation by providing assistance in moving to the isolation dorms and providing three meals a day to students. “I was receiving food by it being delivered to the fridge in the basement at 5:00 p.m. every day. Each bag included dinner and breakfast and lunch for the next day. I personally didn’t like having breakfast and lunch being from the day before, but I don’t think it could be done any better. The food was also supposed to be catered to my diet; although, some days, I couldn’t eat even what was labeled as dairy free or gluten free [because the food was not dairy or gluten free]. The food also didn’t deliver the first day I was in quarantine, and I had to call to start receiving it,” Shrigley said.
As far as moving around the building and rules for individuals in the isolation building, students were meant to be separated and keep to themselves. It is also important to note that there is no Resident Advisor or staff inside the building to enforce these rules. “The protocols for moving around the building was essentially [that] you couldn’t go anywhere but the bathroom assigned for what room you were in or the fridge to get food. You could go outside for a little bit for some fresh air. However, if you were seen walking around campus, your stay would reset. As for physically moving into the building, you just had to contact campus safety and wait for them to help move everything you brought out of your room to your new one,” Shrigley noted.
While the numbers of COVID-19 cases are not high compared to the numbers in L.A. County, 1,518 reported by the New York Times as of Nov. 5, Whittier College is following the guidelines and policies set by L.A. County. Due to the fluctuating nature of the pandemic, these policies are going to continue to change based on the students’ needs and should take the precautions mandated in order to ensure the safety of the Whittier College Community.
Featured Photo: Courtesy of Sage Amdahl