by Eileen Cooney ’23
With COVID-19 cases still surging across various parts of the United States and colleges plowing ahead with their fall reopening plans, many students and parents rightfully have trepidations about the Providence College campus reopening. Within just one week of reopning, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill cancelled in-person classes and switched to remote learning for the rest of the semester following an explosion of cases and a 31% positivity rate linked primarily to large off-campus gatherings. Similarly, the University of Notre Dame was forced to cancel all in-person classes for two weeks after they reached a peak positivity rate of 22.2%. The data and statistics coming from other universities have undoubtedly left PC students worried about the upcoming semester.
If there is any consolation to those returning to PC’s campus, it seems to be the robust testing policy the College has implemented in hopes of preventing large outbreaks that have been seen at other colleges across the country. Per the emails sent out by administration, students have been required to receive a point-of-origin test with a negative result three to five days before moving onto campus, and to be tested again upon their arrival to campus.
Many students have voiced their concerns about these protocols, as testing across the United States is not as rapid as many have claimed it to be, particularly in the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas. While testing is available at some CVS pharmacy locations, it can take six to 10 days for results to come back for students living in these states. Katherine Cleary ’23, a resident of Rochester, New York said, “Getting an appointment for a test was very easy, but I was stressed out about getting the results back in time. Though Providence is offering testing on campus for students before they move in, this was not an option for me as I live over six hours away.”
Despite the challenges many are facing getting tested off-campus, a lot of students are praising the College’s on-campus testing system. Matthew Petry ’21 said, “getting tested was such a simple, streamlined process. It was no hassle at all.” Similarly, Tara Cooney ’21 also said, “the on-campus testing was as simple and easy as could be.”
Despite this, Cooney also voiced her concerns about the College’s quarantining protocols, particularly for students living off-campus. She said, “the school has been very clear about cracking down on off campus gatherings and the emphasis on tests, yet I don’t understand the actual logistics of what happens when someone in an off-campus house gets COVID-19. Are we allowed to use the quarantine facilities on campus or is it up to us to find accommodations? If it is up to us, what are the best practices? I think it would be helpful if the school came out with a document clearly laying out the best practices, so there is no ambiguity about what students can do and what they can’t do. It would really take away a lot of stress and pressure students are experiencing.”
According to the College’s testing dashboard, the percentage of positive cases hovers below 1%, which is comparable to the state of Rhode Island’s overall positivity rate. However, it remains to be seen whether and when a larger outbreak could occur. In the meantime, students in Friartown remain hopeful that they will be able to stay on campus until Thanksgiving.