Many things at most/all colleges have been uncertain since the beginning of the pandemic. From dealing with numerous different operations adjustments to creating new guidelines to guarantee the safety of its students, Siena College has had to alter much of what they do. This semester began with an unexpected phase of a “new normal,” where we are allowed to do things like not wear masks and not follow a strict social distancing rule since certain rules have been lifted. Because of this, we’ve assumed that we were safe, considering items such as contact tracing and COVID-19 testing have still been put in place in many instances. Or has it? Tips from an anonymous source have proven that this may not always be the case.
At a faculty meeting before Thanksgiving Break, members spoke about numerous topics, but specifically in the case of contact tracing on campus. An anonymous source stated that as of Nov. 18, contact tracing has not been happening on Siena’s campus for in-class exposure scenarios. It seems that contact tracing practices have varied in other ways as well, such as in dorm halls and different buildings.
Up until my recent experiences, I had not thought too hard about the lack of contact tracing that may occur on campus. As someone who was in direct contact with someone who had COVID-19, I was never notified of my close contact until the person who was diagnosed with it actually contacted me. Rather than hearing from anyone, I had to contact Siena themselves to gain any information about what my next steps should be. I had not thought of contacting the Health Department, considering that Siena dealt with much of the contact tracing (and other COVID-19 guidelines) over the last year and a half. Since my close contact was with someone I saw very often (and it’s pretty much on record that I do), shouldn’t the school have been a little more cautious and diligent with notifying me?
You may wonder why some people believe that Siena has not been following contact tracing guidelines. Well, it has been argued that the college does not fully understand if they are responsible for doing so, or that it is the duty of the Health Department to contact students and faculty. These people also claim that contact tracing occurs in every situation except for in-class scenarios. While this information could very well be accurate, it may also be skewed based on what I’ve personally experienced.
Up to this day, students have not been notified about what has been going on in regards to contact tracing. According to the same anonymous source, Siena College has no intention of sharing any information regarding the lack of contact tracing with the student body, or even with faculty who did not attend this recent meeting. As a result of this, most (if not all) students may never really know the full truth or whether they should take additional precautions.
Considering that Winter break is right around the corner, the importance of contact tracing cannot be denied. Personally, I do not want to risk the chance of exposing my family to COVID-19. Plus, the idea that I, and possibly other students, could’ve exposed family members to the virus over Thanksgiving break is quite concerning. Since we don’t have required testing for students and faculty on campus, we will possibly never know if we contracted COVID-19 (unless we are symptomatic).
With new variants showing themselves on a regular basis, it is important to be as cautious with the virus as possible. Tasks such as contact tracing and COVID-19 testing may be seen as tedious, but it keeps all students, faculty, and their loved ones as safe as possible. The last thing we want for our school is to become a super spreader because that would not be a good look for the college. Yet, without actually knowing whether we need to worry or actively avoid large gatherings on campus, is it actually possible to prevent something bad from happening? Well, maybe we should all take a rapid COVID-19 test before going home for Winter Break!