Lack of COVID-19 guidelines generates confusion

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Bailey’s Heath Center is offering Covid-19 Dean’s Excuses for students. (Photo courtesy of Lafayette Communications)

While many may feel the COVID-19 pandemic has ceased to become a defining aspect of student life, cases have once again spiked, reminding students that the pandemic is not entirely over. An increase this year in professors’ decision-making for Covid-related absences has left many students unsure of how to proceed once they test positive.

Covid case numbers are unavailable. A statement on the COVID Dashboard webpage reads that “Lafayette has sunset its COVID-19 dashboard.”

Students and faculty are left with CDC guidelines for positive cases, yet the majority of decisions are left to the individual’s discretion. Bailey Health Center has implemented measures to create more succinct communication with students through this most recent uptick, including a new self-reporting portal.

Director of Health Services Dr. Jeffrey Goldstein is recommending students self-report positive cases through the portal, and for students to wait for the automated email after submission.

“This new system has made communication more effective with this most recent spike,” Goldstein said. “The ‘Covid Team’ that once included Deans is no more, and this new portal is the most effective way for students to navigate positive cases.”

Students who use the portal to self-report are also able to obtain a Dean’s Excuse for the designated quarantine period. However, most students have opted to speak directly with their professors to figure out their coursework once they test positive, instead of using the Dean’s Excuse.

“My professors have worked diligently with me to ensure I’m not too behind by the time I return to the classroom,” Kam Durfee ’23 said.

Professors have mostly been left with the freedom for deciding on a Covid policy that suits their classes’ unique needs.

Tim Laquintano, associate professor of English and director of the College Writing Program, said that while he still offers the Zoom option, he recognizes not all students are well enough to participate.

“Given the individual nature of writing courses at the college, students unable to Zoom in are capable of making up missed work during office hours,” Laquintano said.

Similarly, Government & Law Professor Joshua Miller has established alternate methods of supporting students post-isolation. He no longer uses Zoom, yet updates his calendar frequently so that sick students know what material is being covered.

“All students are expected to do the reading. Students who are out for any reason are expected to do an additional blog post about the text,” Miller said.

Durfee found her recent experience navigating classwork while positive for COVID-19 similar to Miller’s system.

“None of my professors use Zoom for Covid positive students anymore,” Durfee said. “I’ve been keeping close contact with each, and staying up to date through Moodle.”

While many may feel disheartened by the recent spike in Covid cases, Goldstein said that he has a much more positive outlook for students and faculty. He explains while Covid is still more severe than other common respiratory illnesses, staying up to date with vaccines and boosters helps combat potentially serious cases.

“Keep an eye on the ball, still have a rich and fully invested life … live as normally as possible, and enjoy your time on campus,” he said.