Upon their arrival on campus back in August, all Albion College students were required to self-quarantine until they received their initial COVID-19 test results. The initial quarantine limited the chance of spreading COVID-19 among students until test results came back. The college requested students to monitor symptoms and partake in this period of self-quarantine, as outlined in the Together Safely campaign.
The semester, however, did not end the same way. Students were notified on Nov. 12 that they were required to leave within two days. Only those with exceptional circumstances were permitted to remain on campus with approval from administration. Those who were forced to leave did not have the ability or time to observe the same period of self-quarantine after getting tested before they returned home to their families.
There is no denying that students had the ability to get COVID-19 tested through city testing, but with a wait of five to eight days, results may have come after a student traveled through an airport, hugged a family member or interacted with their home community.
Angela McCauley, a senior from Albany, N.Y., said she thought the email and text telling students to leave was frustrating.
“I think that was super upsetting, especially for out of state and international students. It really didn’t give us much time to prepare” said McCauley. “I know you could’ve stayed later, but with everything closing down, it made it way more difficult and upsetting.”
After leaving, some students learned that rapid testing was available in Battle Creek, but that fact was never made clear among other information the College communicated.
“They didn’t really provide that information, and if they did, they didn’t do it very well, because I didn’t see that until I left,” said McCauley.
Students and staff practiced many public health measures to ensure the safety of themselves and the entire Albion community. While these reduce the risk of transmission significantly, they are not 100% effective. Thus, students could have unknowingly brought COVID-19 home with them even after adhering to the college’s protocols.
As outlined in an email from President Johnson on Aug. 17, “When there is a positive case, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) requires that all individuals who have been within six feet of the positive individual for more than 15 minutes masked or unmasked will need to be quarantined.”
Yet this was not practiced when students were required to quickly leave campus. In regard to departing campus, the President’s office had a different message as stated in an email sent out just two days before students had to leave campus.
“Based on guidance from the Governor’s Office, we will not be testing every student before they leave campus,” the email said. “Doing so would not be effective at the individual level as a negative test result today does not assure that a person will not be infectious tomorrow due to the 14 day incubation period. This is why the state recommends at-home self-quarantine.”
The COVID-19 cases prior to students’ departure were well on the rise at Albion. Classes were still being held in person, and athletic practices went on until two days prior to the announcement for students to leave. Practicing the right health and safety measures still would not ensure close contact possibilities before students departed campus.
Testing may not have caught all COVID-19 cases due to the incubation period, but it without a doubt would have eliminated worry for students and families while also detecting some possible positive cases.
The responsibility was put onto students, like it had been the whole semester, because we are responsible for our own actions and reducing risk. There could have been more effort to establish a stricter quarantine and testing period before students left campus and migrated to thousands of different communities across the country and even the world.