HARRISON HAMM, Staff Writer—There have been fewer than five Covid-19 cases on campus reported in the last two weeks, via Denison’s official communications. But the experience of a small group of people who tested positive raises questions about the University’s contact tracing protocols and the conditions for those living in isolation.
A group of four students tested positive and endured a whirlwind of an experience shortly after their arrival on campus. The four students are friends and teammates on a sports team. They each preferred to remain anonymous for this story.
One of them felt a fever one day after arriving on campus, and contacted the Wellness Center with his symptoms. He was placed in quarantine and given a Covid-19 test, remaining in isolation until the results came back six days later. He said that he had an idea of where he may have contracted the virus, and while he did not give further details, he confirmed that his potential contact is unconnected to Denison.
After the person who was tested moved into an isolation dorm awaiting the results, the three others contacted the Wellness Center with the information that they were each close contacts of the student who was tested. The Wellness Center told them to proceed with their daily lives, continuing to follow the Community Care Agreement and the precautions taken by their sports team.
The test results for the person who felt feverish came back positive, six days after the test. With that, the three others were tested and placed in quarantine. Conditions in the quarantine house were reportedly “very nice,” with four bedrooms and two bathrooms, in addition to ample desk space.
Each of the three, however, were irked by the school’s initial response to continue with their daily lives, despite their contact with a person who would ultimately test positive. One said that he “would have wanted to know” if he had contracted the virus and that the group “should have been tested.”
Each student emphasized that they adhered closely to the Community Care Agreement, and thus struggled to produce other close contacts. Their sports team trains in small pods, reducing the risk of spread, and they are monitored closely by athletic authorities and coaches. That they have not produced any other known cases is a testament to the school’s restrictions and the team’s following of guidelines.
But two of the three later tested positive, with the third person’s test initially coming back negative. That means, to their confusion, they were allowed to continue with their regular routine while carrying the disease asymptomatically. It was a risk that they were surprised the school allowed them to take.
“Our policy is to test anyone who has been designated as a Close Contact,” Director of Student Health and Wellness Dustin Brentlinger said.
Their positive tests spurred Wellness Center contact tracers into action. “They wouldn’t let us leave until we provided a contact,” one of the positive cases said. Ultimately, one cited his Community Adviser (who tested negative) and a sports teammate, who had already tested positive in an unrelated case.
After a period in quarantine while awaiting results, the two initial positive cases moved to isolation. The student who tested negative was immediately tested again, as a negative test seemed unlikely given his close contact with positive cases. Four days later, he tested positive. The increased time in quarantine and isolation resulted in his going back home until September 6, after his designated isolation time had passed.
Meanwhile, each of the three students who spent time in isolation lamented the conditions they experienced, in contrast to the more positive quarantine situation. The two who tested positive later were given a room together with only one desk, meaning one of them had to do school work in the lounge. They described the beds as “uncomfortable” and the bathrooms “disgusting.”
“Either a nurse or care coordinator reaches out to students regularly to see if they need anything while in isolation and quarantine,” Brentlinger said. “Unfortunately, we have not received any request or feedback about the conditions of rooms during those regular Zoom/Phone calls or in the surveys.”
They ordered food three times per day, and frequently received the same selections. While they raved about the performance of Dylan Price, the Director of Sales and Catering at Bon Appetit, they presented a negative view of the food they received.
By Tuesday, September 1, the three still on campus had returned to their regular dorms and resumed regular life, following the conclusion of what one could only call “a crazy experience.”