Taylor Corley, Campus Carrier editor-in-chief
Annie Deitz, Campus Carrier managing editor
On Aug. 24, the Berry Confirmed Cases Report, accessible on the Berry Healthy Together webpage, was updated to show that a student has tested positive for COVID-19 for the first time since students moved back onto campus. According to the report, 22 students are now being quarantined both on and off-campus. As this is the first instance of a student testing positive since classes begin, Berry is now putting their quarantine system into effect for the first time.
The Health Center oversees a number of policies and systems that help shape the quarantine and contract tracing experience at Berry. Emma Cordle, Health Center director, explains, the policies and regulations put in place were created by a number of people and groups, including the Department of Public Health in Floyd County, to ensure safety as well as provide administrators something to follow.
When a student tests positive for the virus that causes COVID-19, contact tracers reach out to them to inform them that they are being asked to go into isolation.
“Isolation and quarantine are different,” Cordle said. “Isolation is when you are diagnosed as a positive by a molecular test, which are pretty accurate. If you are diagnosed with a positive, then when we want you to isolate for ten days. Quarantine is when you have come in direct contact with someone that is a confirmed COVID positive case. With those students too, we’re going to encourage them to go home, you really can’t leave your room.”
According to Cordle, when students receive a positive test result and are asked to go into isolation, they will generally be required to return home. There are some exceptions to this expectation, but those will be funneled through the Dean of Students office.
“Any exceptions to that will come from the Dean of Students Office, unless of course you’re an international student or you have arrived to Berry by plane,” Cordle said. “Then we realize you’re not going to be able to just get in your car and go home.”
After a student tests positive for COVID-19, contact tracers will reach out to them in order to ask them to make a list of people with whom they had direct contact with, generally meaning they were with these people for an extended period of time.
According to senior Daniel Hanberry, student director of contact tracing, there is a significant difference between a person who is considered a “contact” and someone who has been confirmed as a “case.”
“Our main job is to identify positive cases on campus and essentially ask them to compile a list of known names that they were in contact with throughout what we call their infectious period” Hanberry said. “A case is someone who is positively confirmed to have coronavirus. A contact is someone who was within 6 feet of a confirmed case for more than 15 minute, having masks off at any point [during that time]. Those who are considered a contact will be asked to quarantine while positive cases will be asked to isolate.”
As Hanberry further explains, students who are in quarantine will be asked to receive a test for COVID-19 after five days.
As Cordle explained, it will be impossible for students to remember every single person they have recently interacted with, but contact tracers help students go through their class and social schedules to ensure they are able to create the most specific lists possible.
The students on that list will be then asked to go into quarantine. Students who are asked to go into quarantine due to direct contact with someone who tested are asked to do so for 14 days. While they are encouraged to go home, they are also allowed to stay in their dorm rooms.
“You can’t leave your room, except to go to the bathroom really,” Cordle said. “You shouldn’t be going into any other common spaces. Because of your roommates you are required to wear a mask at all times, unless you’re showering or brushing your teeth.”
According to Cordle, students who do not have a roommate will not have to wear a mask in their room, only when they leave their room to go to the bathroom. Students who live in Centennial, for example, could take off their mask in their own private bedroom, however not when using shared spaces like bathrooms or kitchens.
Some students in quarantine are currently staying in their rooms at Berry. Freshman Mary Austin Slate, a student who has been asked to quarantine, received word that she was to be in quarantine on Monday night. She elected to stay at Berry and continue living in her dorm room for the duration of her quarantine.
“I’m currently on campus,” Slate said. “Originally, I was going to go home if I got a test that came back negative. Now I’ve decided to stay on campus until I can get tested to see.”
Slate explains that she still is able to participate in classes, albeit over Zoom. Her daily life looks very different, however, while staying in her room all day, every day.
“It’s weird, I wake up,” Slate said. “Me and my roommate both have class, so we try to not really be a disturbance to each other until both of our classes are done, just to be mindful and respectful of each other in that way. We try to exercise in our room, whether that be stretching or something like that. Then we try and spend time with friends and family over Facetime.”
Slate has been provided food by the school. As she explains, she is able to request meals, which are delivered to her and her roommate from outside of her door.
“We get meals delivered two times a day. So in the morning we get online and request what we want. It doesn’t really end up being what we ask for all the time but we are thankful we have something to eat.
William Henley, freshman, has also been asked by the school to quarantine due to direct contact. In an email to student media, Henley explains that he chose to go home for the duration of his quarantine.
“The contact tracing center called and gave me the option to either stay in my room in quarantine or serve out my two weeks in my own home,” Henley wrote in the email. “I live one hour and 10 minutes away so going home was a no brainer for me.”
Freshman Raul Mederos is another student who has been asked to go into quarantine. He lives with his roommates who are currently not in quarantine. Because of this, he is required to wear a mask when he is in his room, as well as ensure cleanliness and limited contact to further prevent any potential spread of COVID-19. As he explains, this, as well as the isolation has made him feel more alone. Because of that, he urges students to be careful and try to do what they can to stay safe on campus.
“One final word is just stay safe,” said Mederos. “You never know what’s going to happen.”