c/o Lily Faith-Goldfine, Photo Editor

c/o Lily Faith-Goldfine, Photo Editor

Medical Director Tom McLarney announced that COVID-19 vaccinations and masking will not be required for the fall semester in an all-campus email on Friday, Aug. 18, 2023. The University continues to strongly encourage that students, faculty, and staff be vaccinated against COVID-19 and students are still expected to report positive test results.

While COVID-19 cases have been rising in recent weeks with the spread of Omicron subvariants EG.5 and BA.2.86—EG.5 is more infectious and BA.2.86 has mutated more than previous variants—McLarney emphasized that it is difficult to determine whether cases on campus are higher than normal since most students have only been on campus for a week. However, the majority of students are reporting mild symptoms, according to McLarney.

“Overall I feel we are doing well considering that Covid cases are on the rise worldwide,” McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus. “Most students feel they have a mild upper respiratory illness or allergies. This is what we have seen this past year with all the Omicron variants for the most part.” 

This semester, cases have not been as severe as they were in previous semesters. Although EG.5 accounts for one in five cases in the United States in August, it does not appear to pose a larger threat than previous variants. Research suggests that BA.2.86 may not be as infectious.

“[COVID-19 is] much less severe now (hopefully this will continue),” McLarney wrote. “This may be due to the nature of the current strains and the fact that most students are either fully immunized and/or have natural immunity from having Covid-19.”

Although the University previously required students to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and receive a booster, it is no longer mandating COVID-19 vaccines. However, the University recommends that those who are eligible for the newest vaccinations should continue to receive them, following the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Connecticut Department of Health. The CDC recommends that anyone 12 or older get one updated vaccine beyond the original two-dose vaccination, which became available through Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna in September 2022.

Sometime this month a new Covid booster will be available,” McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus. “It has not been determined yet who is eligible for this (elderly, immunocompromised) or whether it will be available for all. Again, [it is] strongly recommended.” 

University policies dictate that a student must remain in isolation for at least five days following a positive test result. While quarantining, students are only allowed to leave their residences to get grab-and-go meals. If a student tests negative on the fifth day after their symptoms begin, they can return to classes, activities, and socializing as long as they wear a mask. Although this is not mentioned explicitly on the Health Service’s COVID-19 page, McLarney shared that anyone who continues testing positive after five days is required to continue isolating for up to 10 days.

“We do not police our students,” McLarney wrote. “Our experience has shown that most students take this seriously and are compliant with the protocols. Wesleyan students on the whole care about their classmates, staff and professor’s health.”

Continuing with previous semesters’ guidelines, students who test positive for COVID-19 are not required to be isolated from their roommates. Immunocompromised students or students taking medications that compromise their immune system will be separated from students testing positive.

By the time one is diagnosed with Covid, they have been contagious for several days at least. We still encourage distancing and hand washing,” McLarney wrote. “If a house can designate a ‘Covid bathroom’ it would be an added layer of contagion safety but handwashing and cleaning surfaces should suffice nicely if a extra bathroom is not available.” 

Any students who test positive for COVID-19 are encouraged to monitor their own health.

Since the symptoms are for the most part very mild we do not check in on our students and we encourage self care,” McLarney wrote. “We do encourage our students to call the Health Center (we are available by phone 24/7) if they have any concerns.” 

Although McLarney believes that the University community as a whole will monitor their symptoms, isolate, and mask appropriately, students are concerned that some cases are slipping through the cracks.  

It is frustrating because I feel that people with symptoms are not actually testing, and even if they do test positive they might not report it,” B*, an anonymous member of the class of 2025 wrote in an email to The Argus. 

One student in the class of 2025 reported that they struggled to complete the form for reporting positive tests in WesPortal. When attempting to submit it, the webpage said that the form could not be submitted as it had already been completed once this semester. The contact listed on the form had retired and could not be reached. Eventually, the student was able to report their positive test result, and Davison Health Center sent a medical note to the student’s class dean four days later.

“Although replies and communication took longer than expected, the Health Center did offer to help in any way they could,” A*, the anonymous member of the class of 2025, wrote in a message to The Argus.

Some students who tested positive for COVID-19 reported feeling that isolation guidelines are difficult to find.

“[The] exact isolation guidelines were not entirely clear from their “Changes to COVID-19 Policies” email from 8/18, in that University guidelines do not match those of the CDC—that detail was not mentioned,” A wrote. “As I continued to test positive following the first 5 days, University statements were unclear regarding how to proceed in this case.”

B, who has had COVID-19 three times, reported feeling unsupported in navigating the isolation process during drop/add, where attendance in classes is important as a professor can drop any student who doesn’t come to the first day of class.

It is my second year in a row where I missed the first week of classes because I had Covid,” B wrote. “It is extremely frustrating because there is no support from the university and I missed introductions and critical class time. I was fortunate that all of my professors were understanding.” 

These experiences have been especially difficult at the beginning of the school year. 

“In a way, I feel quite a bit of grief, and still do, about having covid at the beginning of the semester,” A wrote. “Having to miss the entire first week of classes—where you meet professors and peers for the first time, are immersed in the chaos of Drop/Add, and have extracurricular commitments (like various audition cycles, for me)—just felt like one loss after another, especially because I had to quarantine the full 10 days.”

In the midst of last week’s heat wave, students testing positive for COVID-19 had an especially hard time due to the lack of air conditioning in most dorms on campus. 

“I was minutes away from checking into a hotel in town because of how unbearable my room was during the day (and at night too, but everyone without AC shared that situation),” A wrote. “At that point thankfully my symptoms had subsided, but if I was still feeling sick, I would’ve gone to a hotel without hesitation, as the dorm’s heat posed a potential health risk.” 

A reported that the University eventually helped them find space to cool down, permitting them to work and attend Zoom classes while in the air-conditioned library while masked and socially distanced.

“It took many emails with people from multiple departments to figure out what my exact course of action was safest,” A wrote. “Despite all that, it seemed that everyone was trying their best to help me and make sure I was staying and keeping others safe. I am extremely grateful I was granted permission to be in the library (after going through the Health Center, Accessibility, [the Office of Residential Life], and my Dean).”

The Pandemic Planning Committee continues to meet as needed and will publish updates to COVID-19 policies as the situation evolves.

*Names have been changed. 


Elias Mansell can be reached at emansell@wesleyan.edu.

Caleb Henning can be reached at chenning@wesleyan.edu.

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