Ariana Juarez
Managing Editor

This article is also available in print: Quaker Campus, Volume 19 – Issue 6, dated Nov. 17, 2021, on the Whittier College campus.

With Thanksgiving and Winter break coming up soon, Housing and Residential Life, working with the COVID-19 Task Force, released an email on Nov. 5 that clarified the expectations and standards for the upcoming holiday breaks. “The College urges anyone who will be traveling for Thanksgiving or Winter Break to adhere to CDC requirements and recommendations before, during, and after domestic or international travel. [ . . . ]Pre-travel testing is available on campus to all students, staff, faculty, and contracted workers on a walk-in basis at Club 88 weekdays from 9 a.m. – noon,” Residential Life wrote in the email. International travelers are expected to test 3 – 5 days after arriving in the U.S., and all Residential students are expected to get on-campus testing within 3 – 5 days of returning to campus, regardless of vaccination status; commuter students are not required to get on-campus testing, though the walk-in clinic will be made available to all.

In addition to this, the email has also clarified the expectations for exempt students. “ALL unvaccinated (exempt) students, staff,  faculty, and contracted workers participating in mandatory  testing are required to test twice weekly for the two weeks following return to campus, whether they traveled outside L.A. County or not. Please plan for a minimum of two days between weekly tests,” the email states.

COVID-19 Task Force members Deanna Merino-Contino and Lisa Newton spoke with the Quaker Campus, in addition to sending out the email. Merino-Contino stated that, in addition to testing after arrival in the U.S., it is recommended for those traveling outside of the country to receive a COVID-19 test one to three days prior to departure. The Task Force has stated that their guidelines come directly from the CDC guidelines, from the start of break to returning to the College campus. “This will be an opportunity for us to catch any students that may be testing for COVID early on, and hopefully keep the results down as students come back from travel,” Merino-Contino stated. “I think this is going to be a really good opportunity for us as we do this, so then we know how it goes for Winter break and JanTerm, and for Spring break as well as we go through the semester.”

Merino-Contino also informed the QC that the testing hours on campus would be extended after Thanksgiving break, starting at 9:00 a.m. and ending at 1:30 p.m., providing a nearly five-hour window for testing. In order for students to get their test results back on the same day, testing must conclude by 1:30 p.m. at the latest. When questioned about why the College did not just use rapid testing, Newton explained that rapid test results could not be used in order to end a quarantine status. “It’s more efficient for us to do the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) testing because, if someone gets a rapid test positive result, they still need to be tested with a PCR test. It must be a laboratory confirmed PCR test. We actually feel that we’re saving a step by going straight to PCR testing. In addition, if someone were exposed to a positive case, and they’re placed in full quarantine, quarantine cannot be broken with a home test.”

The plan that the Task Force has come up with is that the on-campus testing site will extend their hours after every break. In their email, Residential Life stated, “On-campus testing hours will be altered to accommodate JanTerm classes and extended after holiday breaks. Winter athletes will receive specific instructions regarding testing while the Health Center is closed.”

Students who fail to comply with the requirements set by the Task Force will be restricted from classes and extracurricular activities. Professors will be notified about which students have yet to receive testing, and this will be considered an excused absence, so that students may remain safe and keep the COVID-19  numbers low amongst the student population.

For any further questions, Merino-Contino and Newton encourage all students to email the COVID Task Force at covidtaskforce@whittier.edu.

Featured Image: Sage Amdahl / Quaker Campus

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